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News Updates From Poland

(February 2021)

Compiled by Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

Poland’s Duda urges China to increase imports from Central-East Europe
Polish President Andrzej Duda phoned Chinese leader
Xi Jinping during a video-conference summit with China and leaders of 17 Central-East European nations. Duda said Poland and its regional partners “hoped China would increase its import of goods and services from those countries and provide more greenfield investment.” These and most other countries are swamped by Chinese imports, but Beijing’s restrictions make it difficult for them to export their goods to China. Poland is especially interested in exporting more food and agricultural products. Poland’s Chief Executive spoke on behalf of  the Višehrad Four (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) as well as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,  Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia and Greece.

Biden Administration upholds Trump-era defense ties
n his first talks with NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg, America’s first Black Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin gave assurance that strong ties with the alliance would continue to be a top priority of US defense policy. Following his initial talks with Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan,  the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau Paweł Soloch came away convinced of an “across-the-board American commitment to both bilateral military cooperation with Poland, including technical modernization of the Polish armed forces, as well as within the framework of NATO.” That impression was also shared by Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak. Although no representative of Biden’s government mentioned the name of former president Donald Trump, Washington’s initial declarations appear to effectively augur the continuation of Trump-era US-Polish defense and security ties.

Wrongly imprisoned Pole gets $3.5 million  compensation
Tomasz Komenda, who had spent 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, has been granted 13 million złotys ($3.5 million) in compensation. It was the highest such erroneous-conviction payout ever awarded in Poland. The man had been found guilty of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl  outside a club near the southwestern city of Wrocław. Komenda w
as released from prison and acquitted  at the age of 41, after forensic evidence confirmed his innocence. “My nightmare is over.” he exclaimed upon hearing the verdict. Two men, identified only as Ireneusz M. and Norbert B., have been found guilty of the crime and sentenced to 25 years in prison.  The Komenda case has provided the scenario for a new Polish feature film titled 25 Years of Innocence. 

Poland mulls taxing digital giants, opposition protests
The Polish government is mulling the possibility of taxing the huge advertising revenues of such digital giants as Google, Facebook, Apples and Amazon who pay negligible taxes in Poland. Large-scale broadcasters operating in Poland would also be subject to the new tax, if adopted. Small-scale and local media outlets would not be affected. France was the first to introduce a similar measure, and other countries have followed suit. But, true to form, Poland’s self-declared “total opposition” has attacked the plan, alleging that the tax “violates freedom of speech.” A number of anti-government media outlets including the country’s two major private TV networks – TVN and Polsat – staged a 24-hour news blackout in protest.

Liberals want Polish TV’s news channels abolished
The liberal Civic Coalition (KO), Poland’s largest opposition grouping, is circulating a petition to deprive Polish Television (TVP), the country’s public TV network, of its news and public-affairs channels. KO’s vice-president and Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski has accused them of being “a factory of lies and manipulations.”  TVP defenders, however, say the real reason is that public television has repeatedly revealed scams and abuses which the liberals would prefer to hush up. The move would eliminate TVP Info, a round-the-clock news channel, day-time news broadcasts and even Agro-Business, a program watched religiously by the country’s farming community. Such a move would be possible only if KO came to power. That would effectively end media pluralism in Poland by silencing the country’s main conservative outlet, forcing most Poles to get their news from two liberal-leftstream TV networks.

Poland – a haven for refugees and repatriate
Poland has become an attractive place to live, work and study for thousands from war-torn Ukraine as well as dictatorially ruled Belarus. For decades Poland has been attracting the descendants of Poles forcibly exiled by Stalin in the depths of the former USSR. Thousands more dream of moving to Poland from the wastelands of Kazakhstan and the wilderness of Siberia. Others live in Belarus, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Surprisingly, those applying to asylum or residence include citizens of Western Europe, notably Scandinavia and Holland. Those countries are notorious for using the flimsiest excuses to take children from their parents and  place them  in foster care, often in Muslim or LGBT households. In the Netherlands, retarded children can be euthanized up to he age of 12. Other Westerners complain they no longer feel safe in their own countries due to increasing rape and general crime caused by the massive influx of undocumented Muslim migrants.

Polish pro-abortion leader formally charged
Marta Lempart, 42, the  leader of Poland’s pro-abortion marches, has been formally charged with a number of offenses including “creating an epidemiological threat” during the ongoing pandemic. If convicted, she could face a prison term of from six months to eight years. She was also charged with inciting church vandalism and disrupting religious services as well as attacking police officers whom she spat on and verbally assaulted with obscenities. Lempart, a declared lesbian, launched the protest movement last October when the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that Poland’s pro-life Constitution does nor justify congenital defects as grounds for legal abortion. Under Polish law, pregnancy can now be legally terminated when it results from rape, incest or pedophilia or endangers the life or health of the mother-to-be.

PGE launching $10 billion wind-farm venture
In yet another move to phase out coal-fired power by 2040, the Polish Energy Group (PGE) has signed an agreement with Danish energy concern Orsted to to build two offshore wind farms with an estimated combined value of up to $10.7 billion.
When put into service, the farms are expected to have a combined capacity of 2.5 GW. “We are currently in talks with many financial institutions. Soon we will be announcing a tender for a financial advise to design and carry out the entire  financing process,” PGE President Wojciech Dąbrowski explained.

Online charity, other crowd-funding increasingly popular
Crowd-funding, a term few in Poland had heard of a few years back, is now soaring to unprecedented heights, according to daily Rzeczpospolita. Announcing a humanitarian drive or other project to a TV and Internet audience of many millions can often generate numerous small donations that quickly add up.  Typically a child with a rare diseases that can only be treated in the US often raises enough money to pay for  a costly surgical procedure and two-way travel for the patient and his parents. Small start-up firms can often gather the cash they need by offering donors shares. According to the daily, the value of Poland’s crowd-funding market has expanded from about $189 million in 2019  to $290 million last year and in 2021 is expected to grow to $544 million.

World’s oldest active pianist turns 110 in Poland
Wanda Szajowska, widely regarded as the world’s oldest still active pianist  recently turned 110. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, her birthday celebration was rather low-key. Rather than visit  in  person with flowers, gifts and birthday wishes, her admirers gathered outside her Kraków home where she treated them to a concert. They responded by serenading her with “Dwieście lat” (May you live 200 years). Polish President Andrzej Duda conferred upon Professor Szajowska the Centennial of Poland’s Rebirth Medal. A native of the formerly Polish city of Lwów, her family was forced to leave after the USSR permanently annexed the eastern half of pre-war Poland. They moved to Kraków, where Wanda studied at the Jagiellonian University and became a music professor. A neighbor lady, who lives on the same floor of her condo, says every morning she enjoys hearing Szajowska’s beautiful piano recital.

”In America she would have won an Oscar” – Meryl Streep
Hollywood veteran and two-rime Oscar winner Meryl Streep (72) has admired Poland’s Grażyna Barszczewska (73) for close on four decades, but she still has a hard time pronouncing her name. Streep told reporters she first became aware of the Polish actress while working on the 1982 movie Sophie’s Choice. During a break at a Los Angeles cinema, she happened to see the Polish film “Wszystko, co najważniejsze” (All That’s Most Important), Robert Gliński’s war movie set in 1939. Streep was immensely impressed by the acting skills, stunning beauty, elegance and aristocratic demeanor of the then 35-year-old Barszczewska who was featured as the wife of the Mayor of Lwów, then part of Poland. “If she (Barszczewska) had been working in America, by now she would have had at least one Oscar to her credit,” Streep remarked.

PolAm tight end Gronkowski on Super Bowl winning team
Known to his team-mates as “Gronk,” Rob Gronkowski is the tight end for this year’s Super Bowl winners, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Drafted by the New England Patriots in 2010, the 31-year-old Amherst, NY native  transferred to the Buccaneers only last year, helping them win their first Super Bowl since 2003 by beating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9. Gronkowski, a 6’6” 265-pounder, has a record of 566 receptions for 8,484 yards and 86 touchdowns. Sports have been a family affair with the Gronkowskis from way back. All four of Rob’s brothers – Gordie, Dan, Chris and Glen – have been involved in collegiate and professional sports including the NFL. Their dad Gordon was a college football guard for Syracuse University (1977-1981) and later set up a  fitness-equipment business. Their great-grandfather had represented the US in cycling at the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics and held five world cycling records.