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Feb 22, 2024

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Polish News Bytes

Compiled by
Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

EU chief admits: “We should have listened to Poland”
In this year’s annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament,  the head of the European Commission, Urusla von der Leyen, praised the EU for backing Ukraine from the very start of Putin’s aggression. “
One lesson from this war is that we should have listened to those who know Putin,” the German EU chief said. “We should have listened to voices in Poland, the Baltics, and all across Central and Eastern Europe.” She praised countries like Poland which “have worked hard to end their dependency on Russia. They have invested in renewable energy, LNG terminals and interconnectors. This costs a lot. But dependency on Russian fossil fuels comes at a much higher price. We have to get rid of this dependency all over Europe.” Von der Leyen failed to add that her country did not listen because its leaders were focused on lucrative deals with Moscow despite repeated warnings from such knowledgeable dignitaries as Poland’s late president Lech Kaczyński.

Poland’s army expands and upgrades weaponry to deter aggressors
Poland is well on its way to commanding one of NATO’s top three armed forces to more effectively deter potential aggressors.  Under the leadership of its governing conservative Law and Justice party, the country plans to double its current troop strength (about 150,000) within a few years to 300,000. That would make it NATO’s third largest army, trailing directly behind the US (nearly 1.4 million) and Turkey (445,000). Polish forces have been systematically upgrading their armaments to include high-tech weaponry imported largely from the US but also from Britain, Turkey and most recently South Korea. Polish-produced Krab (Crab) self-propelled howitzers and Piorun (Thunderbolt) man-held anti-aircraft missile systems have also proven their worth on Ukraine’s battlefields.

Poland honors Britain’s late Queen Elizabeth II
Poland’s Sejm marked the state funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II by adopting a resolution referring to her as “an important figure for a reborn, democratic Poland.” Although British monarchs do not get involved in politics as such, the late Queen Elizabeth gave many indications that she sympathized with Poland’s Solidarity movement and strongly supported the country’s transition from communism to democracy. The resolution recalled that in 1991 an already free Poland had bestowed upon the monarch Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. In 1996, when she paid her sole visit to Poland, the Queen  received its highest sate distinction: the Order of the White Eagle. Poland was represented at the late Queen’s funeral by President Andrzej Duda.

Polish parliament appeals for war reparations from Germany
The Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament, has passed a bill calling on Germany to take responsibiltiy for its war crimes and pay $1.3 trillion for the human and material losses inflicted on the Polish nation in World War II. The measure was supported by 418 deputies of the 460-seat Sejm with only four against and 15 abstaining. Earlier, many opposition politicians had echoed Germany’s view that the matter has been closed since 1953 when Warsaw renounced reparations from Germany. But that argument was laughable since there was no sovereign Polish state at that time, only a puppet government headed by Soviet stooge Bolesław Bierut. The fact that it was backed by so many opposition deputies, who had initially opposed re-opening the reparations issue, suggests that the opposition, did not want to come off as unpatriotic ahead of next year’s parliamentary election. Poland’s conservative government regularly accuses the liberal-left Civic Platform, the country’s biggest opposition party, of being anti-Polish and pro-German.

6.3 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed into Poland
According to the Polish Border Guard Agency, 6.3 million Ukrainians have crossed into Poland since Russia invaded their country on February 24th. Under special legislation, they were given the right to work, free education and healthcare as well as social benefits like those Polish citizens enjoy. A recent survey has shown that 81% of Poles favor accepting Ukrainian war refugees. Currently, 1.3 million refugees are still based in Poland, others have sought residence in other countries or have returned to Ukraine.  Most of the returnees avoid combat zones, preferring the relative safety of western Ukraine which has been the least affected by the conflict.

Poland’s unstoppable Iga wins third Grand Slam tournament
Iga Świątek, now the Women’s Tennis Association’s No. 1 player, scored yet another triumph recently when she became the first Polish woman ever to win New York’s prestigious US Open.  In the tournament  final, she beat her Tunisian rival Ons Jabeur 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) to win the third Grand Slam tournament of her career. It was the second one this year, following her victory at the French Open in Paris. That was where she had made her world Grand Slam debut in 2020 at the age of 19. After a few setbacks at London’s legendary Wimbledon earlier this year, Iga admitted to being a bit apprehensive about the unfamiliar, reputedly fast-ball-bouncing New York court, but following a few stressful moments she regained her bearings. She left New York $2.6 million richer. So far, during her professional career, Iga has won prize money totaling $14 million.