That’s Not My Country: Welcome to Poland of Law and Justice

Grzegorz Żukowski via flickr ||CC

Łódź, Poland – Free Courts, Women’s Strike, Leave the Białowieża Forest Alone, Save Democracy – these are just a few of the demonstrations I’ve attended in the past few months. And although attending them might seem to be empowering – giving me a sense of community, a common cause to fight for with my fellow Poles – at the end of the day it really gets you down: you live in a state that forces you to protest almost every other thing that is being discussed in the Parliament. I might be all for social activism, but surely, that’s not the point of living in a (seemingly) democratic country in the 21st century.

My mother is baffled – how is this even possible that to a certain extent the history seems to be repeating itself. The parents of my friends attend the demonstrations with them. I am the first generation born in Free Poland – 1990, the first year of hope and a breath of fresh air for the opressed Polish society. Democracy in Poland is being born. And so am I.

I’m always weary of writing about politics. I always fancy myself on being a translator first, an editor second, and then a journalist. But eve n when I am a journalist I usually write about culture. No controversies, nothing debatable (usually). But now I’m staring to feel that my country wants me to declare myself on which side I want to be. After 27 years of being a part of this country, Poland, a place I will always call home, I’m beginning to feel exhausted with the fact that every morning, when I buy a freshly printed newpaper at my favorite Mom and Pop, I’m always stunned with the headlines. They no longer make me angry, they’re starting to make me sad to the core.

Today, the first page of Gazeta Wyborcza shouted: The Government Wants to Arm the NationAnd we go on to find out about yet another controversial bill that is soon to be passed in the Polish Parliament. According to the draft of the act, buying not only traditional guns but also automatic guns will be much easier. The bill was harshly criticized by the parliamentary Bureau of Research and it will clearly breach the EU directive. Oh well, let’s Make Poland Great Again, right? And shoot each other on the streets, maybe at least we’ll make some  room for the refugees. All is well.

I find it heartbreaking that when I type into Google search “independence” in Polish (niezależność), what I find is not the date of Poland regaining it – as it was not so long ago – but instead, the suggested ending is “of the judiciary” (sądów). How did we come to live in such a crazy time?

You may say that well, you must be exagerrating. It can’t be that bad! Well, I say, I may be , but so are the tens of thousands of other Polish citizens then. Folie à deux? Sure, whatever you want to tell yourself. All is an illusion as Descartes would say, after all. But I say: if this is a delusion, so must have been the years of other authorities that gave Poles coupons for meat that you couldn’t buy anyway.

I truly hope that we are wrong. So do others like me. That we are expecting the worst from the government that simply tries to make things all better for everyone. But when this government also tells me that if I am raped I am forbidden by law to have an abortion and at the same time wants people to buy guns, I start to wonder: how is it possible that such a huge group of people still believe in the good intentions of the Law and Justice party? And I’m at loss, because this I cannot understand. Can you?

Olga Labendowicz