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Poland News Up-Dates

Poland, Lithuania targeted in Lukashenka’s hybrid war on EU
Poland and Lithuania have been attacked by the regime of Belarusian strongman Alaksandr Lukashenka who has used undocumented Third World migrants to retaliate against EU sanctions. He has been bringing in plane-loads of migrants, mainly from Africa, bussing them to Belarus’ border and urging them to cross into Poland and Lithuania. Those countries’ border guards have largely prevented their illegal entry, leaving the migrants camping on a grassy no-man’s-land strip between borders. “Poland will not let itself be blackmailed by Lukashenka. Only we decide whom we let into our country and whom we don’t,” emphasized Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. The borders of Poland and Lithuania with Belarus coincide with the eastern limits of the European Union.

Poland seeks way out of EU high court threat
The European Court of Justices (ECJ) has for years been attacking Poland’s judicial reforms although courts of law remain under the jurisdiction of individual member countries, not European Union bureaucrats. Recently, the ECJ has threatened Poland with costly financial sanctions if the Polish Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber is not dissolved. The ECJ, the EU’s top court, alleges that the chamber does not conform to EU law. The chamber was created to discipline judges engaged in corruption, committing crimes or lying about their communist-era past during background checks. Poland’s  authorities have begun work on compromise legislation which they hope will satisfy the ECJ without unduly undermining the reforms. As a first step, Chief Supreme Court Justice Małgorzata Manowska has suspended the activities of the contested Disciplinary Chamber pending further developments.

Justice minister blasts  EU court over alleged discrimination
Zbigniew Ziobro, Poland’s hard-right justice minister, has fiercely criticized the ECJ for its alleged colonial-style discrimination of Poland. “I staunchly oppose succumbing to unlawful EU blackmail carried out by the ECJ. Our judicial reforms would have long been completed had we not bowed to Brussels’ demands and kept giving up our plans,” he argued.  Ziobro accused the EU of using colonial tactics to segregate member countries into better and worse, equal and less equal. “The ECJ allows Germany, Holland and Spain to do what it prohibits Poland from doing. That is a colonial mentality which has nothing to do with the law,” Ziobro said. His small Solidarity Poland party has at times adopted a tougher line than the United Right’s main coalition partner, Law and Justice.

Marek Brzeziński is America’s new ambassador to Poland
President Joe Biden has appointed experienced diplomat Marek Brzeziński as the next US ambassador to Poland, a statement issued by the White House said. He is the son of the late Zbigniew Brzeziński, a renowned Soviet-affairs expert who had been President Carter’s National Security Adviser. Mark Brzeziński had been on President Clinton’s National Security Council and later served as America’s ambassador to Sweden. He speaks Polish and French and holds a PhD in political science from Oxford University. He was decorated with the Commodore’s Cross of Poland’s Order of Merit. Mark’s sister is MSNBC host Mika Brzeziński. 

Russo-German Nordstream pact may destabilize Europe
Opponents of the controversial Moscow-Berlin Nord Stream 2  fear that the pipeline sending Russian natural gas directly to Germany may destabilize Europe’s energy market and adversely affect both the European Union and NATO. Among them are senior lawmakers from Poland, the US and seven other countries, In a joint statement, they blasted. US-German deal in which, Joe Biden has agreed to allow the completion of the contested pipeline without either Germany or Russia facing new US sanctions. As a concession to the US, which opposed the project as a threat to the interests of many of its European allies, German Chancellor Merkel agreed to a stipulation prohibiting  Moscow from “weaponizing” its Nord Stream profits, but monitoring Putin’s compliance is not likely to be easy.

“I’m glad to be safe in Poland” – Belarusian sprinter says
Poland has granted a humanitarian visa to Kryscina Cimanouska,  a sprinter from Belarus who refused to fly home early from the Tokyo Olympics,  Belarusian agents forcibly took her to the airport, but she refused to board a plane bound for Belarus. The 24-year-old athlete pleaded for help, and Japanese police came to her assistance, driving her to Tokyo’s Polish Embassy. Cimanouska said she was ordered to leave after criticizing her coaches and feared reprisals back home. She traveled to Poland via Vienna, Austria to avoid flying through Belarusian airspace. Earlier this year, a Belorussian fighter jet forced an airliner to land in Bełarus so the Lukashenka regime could seize a Belarusian dissident on board. Kryscina was joined in Warsaw by her husband Arsen Zdaniewicz and the couple’s small child.

Poland – safe haven for political refugees
During the first half of 2021, Poland’s Foreigner Affairs Office received some 1,700 refugee applications, its spokesman  Jakub Dudziak told reporters. That was 27 percent more than in the same period of 2020.  Belarusians submitted 667 applications, Russians 465, Afghans 140, Ukrainians 112 and Turks  50. Applications are considered case by case to weed out economic migrants from genuine refugees. All told, international protection was granted to 391 foreigners in the first half of this year, ,” Dudziak said. The relevant applications are considered case by case to weed out economic migrants from genuine refugees. Dudziak noted that in the case of Belarusians the approval rate was 100 percent compared to the overall approval rate of 39 percent. Poland has also issued 125,000 visas to Belarusians to work and study in Poland.

“Shame and humility” over German crimes but no reparations
Armin Lascher, the presumed successor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, beat his breast at ceremonies marking the the 77th anniversary of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. He said he had felt a personal urge to attend the observances and added: “The crimes Germans committed against the whole Polish nation fill me with deep shame and humility. Germany must always be aware of its historical responsibility for Poland’s freedom and independence.” But, when a reporter asked him about German reparations for the massive destruction of Poland and the death of six million of its citizen, Lascher replied: “That is a closed issue.”

Polish rescuers rush aid to German flood victims
A team of Polish fire-brigade rescuers was among the first foreign volunteer groups to rush emergency aid to flood victims in neighboring Germany. More than 170 people lost their lives and dozens more were injured or went missing during the worst flooding in decades, Hardest hit was western Germany’s North Rhineland-Westphalia region where torrential downpours produced surging flood waters that killed some 180 people, while dozens more were injured or went missing. The flash floods destroyed buildings, roads, rail lines and bridges, and the rebuilding is expected to take years, The Polish fire-fighters also donated 70 desiccant machines to dry out flooded property.

Poland ranked among Europe’s safest countries – EU
According to Eurostat, the European Union’s official statistical agency, Poland is Europe’s third safest country, Only 4.4 percent of Poles have reported crime, violence or vandalism in their local areas. Even safer than Poland were Lithuania, with 3.2 percent, and Croatia, with 2.7 percent. The European Union’s average was 11 percent. Awareness of violence was highest among the Western European countries that had succumbed to German pressure to admit hordes of undocumented Muslim migrants.

Poland’s Pedophilia Commission lacks Church documents

The work of Poland’s State Pedophilia Commission has been stalled due to its lack of access to files documenting the Catholic Church’s proceedings in cases of  clergy sexual abuse of minors. “We need those documents and have asked for them, but cooperation with the Episcopate is not running smoothly,” Commission chairman Błażej Kmieciak told reporters recently. On the basis of its own investigation, the Commission has released a 250-page report showing that nearly 30 percent of the recorded cases of molestation involved clergy, In 35 percent of the cases, the abusers were members of the victims’ family.

Small homes without down payments and building permits
Under the Polish government’s new, family-friendly Polish Deal (Polski Ład), Poles will soon be able to start building small homes without a down payment or a building permit. That will apply to free-standing houses not to exceed 70 square meters (753 square feet) in size on lots of no more than 90 square meters (969 square feet). The move is meant to enable young families to move into affordable homes of their own earlier on with a minimum of bureaucratic hassle. Such homes can be built only in areas not already covered by local land-development plans.

Kicking out Law and Justice – Tusk’s main political goal
Former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk returned to Poland in July and took over the liberal-left Civic Platform, Poland’s largest opposition party. He fiercely attacked Poland’s conservative Law and Justice government but failed to present the political platform he planned to implement if his party won the 2023 general election. For weeks he hemmed, hawed and skirted the issue until he finally let the cat out of the bag. “Removing Law and Justice from power is our positive, concrete and complex program,” Tusk declared. A recent survey showed that 36 percent of Poles felt his return would exert a positive influence on Polish politics, while 54 disagreed. A protégé of Germany’s powerful Chancellor Angela Merkel, Tusk had served for two terms as the head of the EU’s influential European Council.

Tusk opposes crosses in public places; education minister disagrees
Asked during an online question and answer session whether crucifixes should hang on walls in Polish schools, Donald Tusk parroted the liberal-leftist line and said: “No! Public places, be it parliament or a school, should be free of religious symbols. I would like churches, not public offices or schools, to be the place where believers meet in peace and mutual trust to pray.” Poland’s conservative Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek countered that view saying: “Fortunately in Poland we’ve got freedom of religion. It’s parents and school boards that decide whether and which religious symbols should be displayed in schools. That is in line with the rulings of the European Tribunal of Human Rights and Polish courts of law. Freedom and not the dictatorship of leftists and atheists as in the West.”

License renewal for Discovery’s TVN – opposition’s cause célèbre
Poland’s liberal-left “total opposition” is championing the Discovery group’s control of TVN, the country’s largest commercial TV network. The American media giant had set up a fake company at Amsterdam airport to circumvent a planned Polish law banning non-European control of Poland-based broadcasters. Now that TVN’s license is up for renewal, Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform party has turned the issue into yet another anti-government crusade. The conservative authorities are being accused of not only muzzling free speech but also being anti-American. But such critics have failed to show how freedom of speech is ensured by foreign ownership which routinely defends and promotes its home country’s interests.

Delta variant on the rise but vaccinations decline
During the summer months, interest in getting inoculated against COVID-19 has declined. In June, some 2.5 million Poles a week were getting vaccinated but by August their number had dropped to 690,000. Mobile clinics and drive-through stations have been set up, and political leaders, the media and Church have strongly urged Poles to get the protective shots as the fourth wave of the pandemic was looming. The highly transmissible Delta variant now dominates new cases of the infection. Nevertheless, by early August, only some 53% of adult Poles had been fully vaccinated in Mazowsze, Poland’s best inoculated region. The lowest level (37%) was reported in Podkarpackie voivodeship in the southeast  of the country. A minimum 75% inoculation level is required to achieve herd immunity, said to stop the spread of the pandemic. Sporadic anti-inoculation protests and incidents have also been reported. The most serious occurred in the SE city of Zamość where a mobile vaccination clinic was set on fire.

Poland to host Third European Games
Kraków, Poland’s old royal capital, has been chosen as the venue for the Third European Games due to be held in 2023. Under the aegis of the European Olympic Committee (EOC), the games are expected to attract some 5,000 competitors from 50 European nations. They will compete in over 20 different sports including archery, track and field, canoe slalom, badminton, basketball 3×3, cycling, shooting, table tennis, ski jumping. Triathlon and several martial arts. Controversy surrounded preliminary preparations as Kraków’s ex-communist Mayor Jacek Majchrowski initially refused to sign the contract with the EOC unless the government agreed to bankroll the event. The left-leaning mayors of several European cities objected because the Małopolska region, where Kraków is located, had declared itself  “a zone free of LGBT ideology.”

Program teaches NATO troops about Polish history
The Polish National Foundation has launched a program designed to promote a positive image of Poland among NATO troops stationed there. At the NATO base in northern Poland’s Bemowo Piskie, soldiers from the US, Britain, Croatia and Romania are learning about Polish history and culture. They have also toured major heritage sites, most recently Kraków’s Royal Wawel Castle and the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Poland’s capital.  “My grandfather fought in World War II but he was in the Pacific. Until now, I didn’t know much about the war in  Europe,” remarked one young American soldier taking part in the program. “We hope they will become ambassadors of Poland when they return to their home countries,” explained Temistokles Brodowski of the Polish National Foundation.

23-year-old is Poland’s first Chess World Cup winner
Polish chess Grandmaster Jan-Krzysztof Duda has become the first Polish winner of the Chess World Cup after beating his Russian opponent, Sergei Karyakin in 30 moves. The final was held in the Russian Black Sea resort of .Sochi, Duda, who hails from the Polish salt-mine town of Wieliczka, has been playing chess since he was five and has been Poland’s Grand Master since 2013. After beating Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen in the semifinal, he was the first Pole ever to make it to the World Cup final. Carlsen was the first to congratulate Duda on his victory in the biennial tournament.

In Air Bubble kids can breathe pure air while at play
Outside Warsaw’s Copernicus Science Center stands a structure resembling a  wooden  garden gazebo. In actuality, it is an Air Bubble, a hermetically sealed enclosure in which children can play breathing air that has been purified by special algae. The location of the Air Bubble is not surprising. The Copernicus Center is a living museum of often spectacular scientific oddities and experiments which visitors can not only observe but also take part in. It is therefore a favorite destination of school and family excursions.

Pani Tekla doing well for a 115-year-old
Tekla Juniewicz, Poland’s oldest woman, recently celebrated her 115th birthday. Although she has slowed down and has her aches and pains, she is doing surprisingly well for someone her age. Born in the village of Krupsko  in what was then the Austrian partition zone (now Ukraine), she lives with her grandson Adam in the southern city of Gliwice. Pani Tekla, who remembers the tragedy of the Titanic and was 12 when World War I broke out, enjoys watching historical documentaries on TV, but her greatest pride and joy is her family: two daughters, five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren. “The best gift I received was my great-great-granddaughter Iga who was born on my 115th birthday,” Pani Tekla remarked. She is among the more than 2,000 Poles aged 100+.

Five million Poles wished America a Happy Birthday
But that was back in 1926 when the United States was celebrating its 150th birthday. A Pole named Leopold Kotnowski personally presented the “card” signed by five million Poles to the White House. It actually took the form of notebooks totaling some 30,000 pages containing art, photos, poems and pressed flowers. Volumes 14 to 110 have been digitized by the Library of Congress, and some are available online.

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Compiled by Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent