Poland this week

I wrote the title and paused. Where do I even begin?

Poland, unlike Britain, has a written Constitution which serves as a supreme book of law for the country. Polish Constitution has a long and distinguished tradition, and as every proud Pole is keen to tell you, Poland was the first country in Europe and second in the world, after the US, to have come up with the written Constitution, in 1791 no less. We should probably gloss over the fact that that first Constitution only lasted 14 months, but anyway, the tradition was set, and suffice to say that the Constitution is a very big deal in Poland. It’s a sacred document of the land. Like the Bible, which, ironically, is also a sacred document to many Poles, and that is where a lot of Poland’s current problems stem from.  

Last Thursday, a court called Constitutional Tribunal (CT), which rules on constitutionality of all Polish laws, issued a decision banning abortion based on severe malformation of the foetus.

Over the last few decades, abortion has arguably been the single most inflammatory, emotive, divisive, controversial issue in Polish political and social life. Do not get me wrong, there have been plenty other inflammatory, emotive, divisive and controversial topics around recently, such as LGBT rights, specifically gay marriages and adoptions (both remain firmly illegal), the intake of refugees (Poland refuses to take any), sexual education at schools (you can guess), free access to contraception, and a plethora of other similar issues. 

Before last Thursday, abortion had already been outlawed in Poland in most cases anyway, but the recent decision takes it up to another level by introducing a near-blanket ban. Abortion is only going to be allowed where there is a risk to a woman’s life, or the pregnancy is the result of rape or (puzzling turn of phrase) incestual violence. The last two scenarios need to be verified by a prosecutor. 

Historically, as introduced by Abortion Act in 1956 by the then Communist government, abortion in Poland was legally available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. At the time, this was a pretty liberal law, compared to other European countries. As any Call the Midwife fan worth their salt knows, abortion in Britain was only legalised by Abortion Act of 1967. 

The recital of the Polish 1956 abortion law included circumstances which allowed for the legal termination of pregnancy. One of them quoted ‘difficult life conditions of the pregnant woman’, which opened itself up to a broad range of interpretations and effectively amounted to ‘abortion on request’. 

Despite fairly regular challenges by the Catholic Church and its derivative organisations, the status quo existed until the end of Communist rule in Poland.

All of that changed in 1993, when the new Act of Parliament removed the ‘difficult life conditions’ provision from the previous law, leaving only the danger to woman’s life, foetal malformation and rape or incest as grounds for legal abortion. As far as game changers go, that one was pretty major. Curiously, the 1993 Act had been referred to as an ‘abortion compromise’ in Polish political discourse, which should have set off some worrying alarm bells among the pro-choice section of Polish society. If that was a compromise, what else could the opposite side have in mind?  As of last Thursday, we’ve got the answer. 

The amendment to the law means that women will now be forced to carry pregnancies to term even in the case of most severe, irreversible foetal abnormalities. Such babies will often only live for the matter of minutes, or hours, and that could be seen as small mercies. Others will live lives stripped off any meaningful existence or dignity for years. There is no need to explain what depths of misery and avoidable suffering that will entail for the severely disabled babies, their mothers and wider families.   

The timing of the latest decision cannot go unnoticed, and is truly despicable in itself. Poland is as much in the grip of the Covid pandemic as the rest of us, the stats have been steadily rising over the last few weeks. Polish government must have known that a CT decision of such magnitude, with such breathtaking social consequences, would not be accepted without protest, that the people will take to the streets ignoring current Covid restrictions thus endangering lives.  

Nationwide response came literally within hours of the CT decision. Thousands of protesters poured onto the streets of Polish towns and cities, armed with unprecedented anger and makeshift slogans. They’ve been out there for the last week and they have no plans to return home any time soon.

One word stands out on their cardboard banners, the word which, incidentally, I shrink from using in everyday parlance. The word is Wypierdalać and it means Get the fuck out. This word has been traditionally associated with representatives of lower social classes, who would use it in situations of heightened emotions or extreme inebriation. Since last week, I have seen this word on the lips of individuals I thought incapable of pronouncing it. The word is directed against the current government, the Law and Justice (PiS) ruling party and also against the dignitaries of the Catholic Church, which is seen as largely responsible for the current developments.  Which leads us to the next stage.

Three days after the CT decision, several groups of protesters all over Poland, entered their local Catholic Churches, and interrupted the Sunday Mass. Religious feelings run as deep among some parts of Polish society as their love of the Constitution, so this was seen by many church-goers as a terrifying escalation of events, the violation of the sanctity of the churches.

Two days later, on Tuesday this week, and I promise this is the final episode in my current reporting, the leader of the PiS party, Jarosław Kaczyński, decided to address his party faithful on national TV, mainly on the matter of attacks on churches, but also on the subject of the vulgarity of expression on the part of the protesters. He appealed to all Polish citizens, and specifically to all the PiS members to ‘protect Polish churches at all cost’. He described the attacks on churches as part of the plan to destroy Poland. He referred to the current events as ‘war’ for the preservation of Polish national identity and Polish patriotism. He signed off by saying, ‘let’s defend Poland’.  
It did not take long for his audiences to draw chilling parallels with another sombre leader’s speech, watched by millions, as general Jaruzelski declared Martial Law from TV screens on a December morning in 1981.

Since I like to do things thoroughly, I set out to find somebody who supports the latest CT decision and to try to understand the reasons why they defend it. None of my friends does, so I resorted to a well-known research method of Facebook stalking. I found one person, who is not only in favour of the decision, but she is prepared to, quite literally, go to war over it. Yes, it’s a woman. She welcomed the CT decision with ‘joyous heart’, and she is now ‘more proud than ever’ to be Polish. You get the gist.  

She attracts like-minded individuals to comment on her posts. Remember Katie Hopkins comparing migrants to ‘cockroaches’? That’s exactly how this person and her circle refer to their political opponents. The all-embracing highly contemptuous term which they use to describe anybody with even a hint of liberal views, is lewak.  Lewak doesn’t translate easily, mainly because whatever word I choose, it will likely fail to convey the utter disgust and derision the Polish term implies. Leftie is too soft, it sounds almost like a term of endearment by comparison. Libtard comes close, except it is not used very often in English, whereas the label lewak is freely given out in Poland to anybody who expresses even slightly progressive views, about anything. 

This morning, she put a temporary frame on her profile picture, which reads ‘National Guard’. She has taken her leader’s words to heart, and has declared herself ready to ‘protect the churches, protect Poland’ against the supporters of eugenic abortion.

So there it is. Eugenic abortion. This is a rather cleverly, carefully chosen term, I must admit. Eugenics is a fully discredited concept, and it gives the supporters of the current CT decision a high moral ground they so crave.

All of this is far from over. I will let you know what happens next.

Everyman’s Dream

‘On the Rocks’ is not a great film. It is slow, with minimal plot, zero surprises, ok, fine, one, tiny little surprise towards the end, still no major surprises; not much humour, and Bill Murray looks like he’s tired of acting and also, frankly, slightly unwell. So much so, that one fellow sufferer in the audience vented his frustration half way through, by shouting at the screen, stop blanking, start acting! 

Murray’s character is selfish and obnoxious, which serves no purpose, but rather, like everything else in the film it is what it is. Did I mention that Murray looks drawn and haggard? He does. His daughter, played by Rashida Jones, who, I understand, has received a degree of praise for the role, but I am sorry to say she does not do much for me either. Her husband comes off the worst of them all. He is so bland he seems to be nothing more than a prop, with no visible traces of a personality, and an acting method built around rubbing his forehead with his outstretched hand a lot to indicate his inner struggles. Or just a persistently itchy forehead.

The marriage, the state of which the title alludes to, and which is meant to be the centrepiece of the movie, is utterly unconvincing, completely removed from reality of modern family living. The father-daughter relationship has its cute  moments, but these are so too few and so short-lived, they cannot possibly save the film from itself. It is one of those films where ‘nothing happens’, and in the absence of any other redeeming features, you leave the cinema thinking it was a bit of let down and a bit of a waste of your time. The kind of film that typically only attracts a very small crowd of eccentric culture buffs, which lends the cinema auditorium the same depressing vibe that is unfolding on screen. 
Except, this is 2020, and typical does not apply. Audiences, starved of new releases flock to each one in large numbers, limited, naturally, by social distancing rules. 

And so it came to pass that  On the Rocks opened to a full house at our local Everyman cinema. My daughter and I were there too, amongst the Crystal Palace finest, doing our bit to save the industry. 

One nagging thought still remains, as we watch the trailers. Why, oh, why there is a need to push back Dune, No Time to Die and Black Widow releases, but On the Rocks was able to open.

Everyman really knows how to look after their middle class, ever so snobbish clientele. Sofa style seats, currently separated by Covid-friendly single empty armchair. They offer food and drink waiter service, with a range of burgers, hummus and flatbread, four types of chips, including deliciously salty and just the right side of thin, sweet potato variety. Drinks menu includes a decent wine list in three colours, as well as a large choice of cocktails, with a frozen pina colada with vanilla ice cream to die for, and, wait for it, raspberry candy fizz, which is raspberry liqueur and prosecco with a dollop of pink candy floss on top. 
All this allows the cinema to double up as a bar and a restaurant, which makes sitting through mediocre films like this one all the more palatable.  I can’t wait for Cats and Dogs: Paws Unite next weekend. Kidding, it’s actually Cinema Paradiso, 30th Anniversary, and I literally cannot wait. I already have my food and drink order all sorted in my head.

I want to believe that the future of cinema is bright. It has the colour of the passion fruit martini at your local Everyman.

PS. The photo shows me using Every Girl facilities. The lighting inside is every middle aged woman’s dream.

September like no other

The longest September on record has ended. It dragged on so long, I convinced myself it was time to move the clocks back already. My family stopped me at the last moment, just as I was about to interfere with all the digital displays around the house. 

September is traditionally the month of New School Year resolutions for me, as I feel inspired by warm memories of sandy beaches and lingering sunsets, my tan still glowing. This year, as we came back from ten days of solid rain in North Yorkshire, I could not be asked.      

Highlights of the month. One trip to a half-empty local cinema, one trip to a half-empty local hairdressing salon, one track and trace check-in at a half-empty Costa, one chicken caesar baguette at half-empty Pret, one stroll around half-empty John Lewis store, and one walk in the countryside along half-empty paths, amidst half-empty fields, travelling to work on half-empty trains. You get an idea. 

Oh, yes, one more thing. A week or so into this most unlikely September, I found myself an unwilling participant in a mask rage incident on London public transport. The 15.36 to West Croydon via Crystal Palace, from London Victoria, platform 11, to be precise. What’s more, it wasn’t my usual, mobile-at-the-ready bystander’s role. No. This time I was thrown bang in the middle of the action, a villain or a victim, depending on where you stand on these things. 

As usual, I arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare, walked the length of the platform and got onto the first carriage. I had it all to myself, so I took my mask off and started munching through a punnet of cherries. And not just any cherries, but M&S, end of season, soft and plump, dark red, just ripe enough, not too sweet, absolute bliss cherries.

‘Put your mask on!’, I heard an angry male voice behind me, ‘Put it on, put it on, you need to have your mask on when you are on the train, put it on now, you stupid bitch, PUT IT ON NOW!’

I do not respond well to people shouting at me, never have, so I ignored him, and reached for another cherry. That enraged him beyond all reasonable expectations. Within seconds of me taking another bite, his whole body shuddered, he did a small jump on the spot, raised his preaching finger at me. To his credit, he kept a safe distance at all times, as per government guidelines.  

‘Put your mask on, you bitch! Show some respect, you are not allowed to eat on the train, look at all this saliva!’, at this point he stopped his rant, to run his fingers down his face to illustrate the imaginary streaks of saliva drooling down his cheeks. 

He was properly fired up now. 

I spat out a cherry stone, slowly and discreetly, into my hand. He must have seen it as a personal insult, and raised his voice a notch.

‘You disrespectful bitch! You have no respect for me, you have no respect for the law, you have no respect for yourself, you fucking bitch! 

I looked around and considered my options. We were the only two people in the carriage, the train was leaving in about three minutes. I was about to get up and move to a different carriage, when he ran up to the door and stuck his head out. ‘Excuse me! Guards! Security! Please remove this woman from the train, she is refusing to put her mask on, she is eating on the train, she is not allowed to eat on the train!’. 

Next thing I knew, two laid back, well-built six footers in orange high viz uniforms strolled into the carriage. The mask enforcer set off again, ‘She is not wearing a mask, tell her she needs to put it on now!’ One of the guards, visibly bored, looked at me and said, ‘but she is eating’. It was the wrong thing to say. 

‘She is NOT ALLOWED to eat on the train! tell her that, she is a disrespectful bitch, she needs to wear a mask but she doesn’t, she is a law-breaking bitch, and she has white privilege!’

That was enough for one of the guards. Still relaxed, he said to the man, come on, cool it man, there is no need to for that. Madam, would you like to move to the next carriage?  He gestured towards me, shielding me from the mask warrior with his body. I packed the cherries away, put on my mask and changed carriages. 

As I was leaving, I looked at the fuming vigilante one more time. Until he mentioned white privilege, I assumed he was white himself, perhaps Southern European, or whatever. His race was the last thing on my mind, as I was assessing his level of aggression against me and my cherries. 

Incidentally, the two security guards who came to my rescue both most definitely identified as Black Caribbean. 

This is not a story about race and colour, it’s about mask rage on a train due to my over-zealous love of cherries. 

The fact that some people will go to great lengths to turn every story into one about race and colour, just came as an unexpected bonus.  

Book writing for beginners

Lock a restless family of four with 3.4 computer screen per person at home.

Close all theatres, cinemas, Tate Modern and the o2 Arena.

Leave to stew for 4 months.

The result is two books written and published by two family members, with the other two acting as cover designer and publisher.

Chasing a River is a story of young love and loss. It draws you in and doesn’t let go.  I can’t say any more without revealing too much.





Proud Mum Moment or Three

After a government-enforced spring laziness (thank you, Boris and Rishi), we are now once more full steam ahead. There is simply no stopping our burgeoning family book business.

At the time of writing, Alexia has got no less than three book covers to her name, please see the pictures below.
Jaimie, Ania and Cordelia are doing their level best to write fast enough to keep up with Alexia’s prolific graphic design skills.
Even the husband joins in, albeit grudgingly, bringing his invaluable formatting talents to the table.


Hot off the presses!


It’s taken its time, but it’s finally here.

As the blurb accurately describes it, it’s an ultimate vanity project. A story of my first steps in England, from a nervous arrival at Heathrow in July 1988 until it no longer felt like a holiday.

I would like to thank a small army of people who made it possible; my editors, proofreaders, graphic designer, publisher, and kdp-formatter.
Aka my family.

It is available in paperback on Amazon.co.uk

The Kindle version is coming soon, I am told.

I hope you enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed writing it.



Post-lockdown Angst



A short one today, to match my current attention span.

Post-lockdown world dawns. The country is reopening, the nation is able to banish grey roots and tame tousled beards once again. Yay, I suppose.
Still, saying goodbye to the pyjama part of 2020 fills me with inexplicable sadness. I am also more than a little lost what to do next. Am I the only one?

Nine or ten weeks ago the instructions were clear; stay at home, or else. I did, religiously so.  The Stay Alert which followed, was a tad less clear, but I could live with that. I looked over my shoulder a lot and I was fine.
But now? What are we meant to do now? Is it still ok to stay at home all weekend, or are we supposed to play a frantic catch up game? Run out the doors, queue up at a drive-through, stock up at a garden centre, and get a takeaway latte?

A lot of things did not happen for me this year, Easter holiday and a trip to South Africa around now stand out the most. At the time, I felt deprived and very sorry for myself and my family. And yet, foreign travel is the last thing I would like to do right now.

I am going through a last-minute rush to quickly do something now that I should have started in April, but really didn’t feel like it during the long lazy early lockdown weeks. Is it possible that I am missing that blissful idleness already? The glorious slowness of it all? Lockdown nostalgia sounds absurd when dentists are still to re-open. And yet.

This morning, with nothing to show for our family lockdown except tupperware boxes perfectly matched up with their lids, I threw myself at the spare bedroom’s walls armed with a scraper and that thing you spray plants with. I spent a couple of hours frantically stripping wallpaper. Layer after layer after layer; fifty years’ worth of wall covering, all gone. I feel a bit better now, but I have a niggling feeling that I had left it too late.

Every day is beginning to come with its own agenda again and I wonder how much longer I will be able to resist the ‘back to normal’ trend.

I really liked the idea from a couple of months ago that if one day was proving a complete false start, I could discard it by about eleven in the morning, and there was another identical one coming in less than 24 hours which I could start properly. This doesn’t sound like a viable option any more. The expectation to have something to show for each and every day has returned, and I don’t like it.

Poland News for my non-Polish friends

Poland elects their new president for the next five years tomorrow. Second round of voting. Two candidates remain out of the original eleven. Polls suggest they are neck and neck.

Latest predictions say they literally sit at 50% each. I feel genuinely sad for my Polish friends in Poland, as there seems to be no ideal candidate, so a lot of them have resigned themselves to voting for a ‘lesser evil’ tomorrow.

In the red corner (although the colour is largely irrelevant here, as they are both, curiously, broadly speaking right wing candidates), the incumbent, Andrzej Duda, who has the support of the government. His views are openly and proudly, yes proudly, nationalistic, strongly Catholic, anti-LGBT+, anti-abortion in any circumstances, anti-EU, mainly because of Germany’s strong role in the Union, climate change ‘sceptic’. You get the gist.

He is loved by millions who benefited from the government’s generous welfare packages of the last few years.

In the blue corner, the opposition golden boy, who had joined the race rather late in the day, which gave his campaign a feel of being a little bit rushed and unclear, Rafał Trzaskowski.

His past employment history boasts the positions of the mayor of Warsaw, and the Euro MP. He is fluent in English (has a degree in English) and not bad in a few other European languages, a YouTube soundbite showcasing his drop dead sexy Spanish accent is meant to seduce undecided voters.

Not as completely different from his opponent as the social media would make you believe, and definitely not as left wing as the truly liberal electorate would wish him to be, but compared to Duda, he can be called a progressive candidate.

A lesser evil in the eyes of many.

I will keep you posted on what happened next.

Britain this week

Warning: this blog piece contains the author’s political views that some readers will find offensive.






I am writing this mainly as a note to my future self, because I fear that when I reminisce about recent developments in a couple of years’ time, I might be tempted to think my memory is playing tricks on me.

Gavin and Stacey, a comedy TV show starring James Corden and a bunch of other dim but lovable characters, has caused offence by calling a black person… black, and a Chinese person, yep, you guessed it – Chinese, and is therefore pending review and a decision whether it should be taken off streaming channels for ever more.
The show attracted over 11 million viewers last Christmas, with no complaints. But fair enough, Christmas was a very long time ago.

Little Britain has already fallen, struck down by a mighty sword wielded by another crusader fighting racial injustice, that well-known scourge of our country in mid-2020.

Lord Baden-Powell’s statue on Bournemouth-Poole seafront is under threat of being torn down, because the founder of worldwide Scouting movement is now denounced as a homophobe and a Nazi sympathiser. Local Scouts are keeping guard on both sides of the statue overnight to prevent his removal.

Lady Antebellum changed their artistic name in case it offends people. This caused confusion in Britain, because the majority of people did not understand who it might offend and for what reasons; this might be a reflection on the quality of our education.

Statues of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, George Washington outside the National Gallery, the war memorial Cenotaph in Whitehall have all been boarded up overnight to prevent their anticipated defacing and vandalism during upcoming Saturday afternoon BLM protest in Central London.

Breaking News. BLM have now cancelled their main event in Hyde Park, fearing the backlash from right wing groups. The way I see it, they cancelled, because with Churchill, Washington and several other statues sealed off, where is the fun in ‘peaceful protest’.

According to 2011 Census, 3% of people identified as Black/Black African/Black Caribbean in Britain. This week they are holding the rest of the British population ransom and demand that we re-write, revise and if necessary erase vast parts of our history.

Britain is not a racist country. Black people in Britain are not being discriminated against. The reason why they are ‘under-represented’ in all walks of life is because there are 3% of them in the country, there are only so many of them that can be visible everywhere, all the time.

White people in Britain have been trained, conditioned, and warned to be over-cautious not to think, say or do anything that might be perceived as remotely racist. This has had an effect on me too. I tense up every time I encounter a black person in my professional or private life. The first thought that rushes through my mind is, oh my God, what if I say something and they take it the wrong way and I cause offence.
I live in South London, where the ratio of black people to white people is significantly above national average. Whenever I sit next to a black person on a bus, I avoid eye contact, in case they don’t like the way I look at them. Yes, I am being paranoid about it. Or am I?

White teenagers in my part of London are used to being treated with contempt by their black peers. They are being excluded from black only friendship groups and laughed at for the way they pronounce plantain. They are being told, ‘you won’t understand this, because you are white’. Imagine if a white person said that to their black classmates, what outrage, what consequences that would cause. They would be lucky not to be permanently excluded from the school, because ‘we do not tolerate racism in our school’.

In the aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic, which is by no means over, the country is facing a host of burning issues we should expend our energies on. Toppling statues of founders of hospitals, 18th century philanthropists and builders of the industry, because a racist white cop unlawfully killed a black detainee in Minneapolis three weeks ago is not one of them.



Poland, the country I no longer know

Warning: a long read on the subject I know little about, but when did that stop anybody?


Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza (Election Gazette) used to be my favourite source of news and gossip from Poland. The journalists were of decent quality, the writing entertaining. Alas, Gazeta Wyborcza became subscription-only a few years ago, not even one free taster article a month, just a few lines fading away before it got interesting. Subscription fee is negligible but it’s the principle that I object to; so Gazeta was out.

I do not watch Polish TV, not since I got tired of maintaining the charade that the Cyfra+ satellite dish affixed to the side of my London house was in fact firmly screwed onto a wall somewhere in Poland. The owners of this particular satellite TV insisted that only people who resided in Poland could access their services; Cyfra+ was out too.

My visits to Poland over the years have been short and far between and when I did go, it was to immerse myself in a picture perfect countryside, my tourist status shielding me from everyday Polish realities.

I left Poland more than three decades ago. For several years after that I busied myself designing, building, destroying, and re-building my new life in London. My days were spent moving and decorating houses, giving births, getting and losing jobs, and performing similar life-defining rituals. All this left me with no time to follow the news from Poland. I did not keep up with any of the major political, social, and cultural changes that Poland was going through after the end of Communism.

The crazy 1990s came and went, my stormy personal dramas went with them, replaced by so-called life stability. At about the same time, the Internet started to gain momentum, so I could read the latest news from around the world with my morning coffee.

Gazeta Wyborcza was in its infancy, but it was still free of charge. I understood little of what I read; with a few exceptions, all names and faces in Polish public life had changed when I was busy elsewhere, which was frustrating. I felt the growing sense of detachment. Poland was slipping through my fingers.

A few more years had passed, my life was running at full speed, and then suddenly, wham! Poland joined the EU, and the job seeking Poles began to arrive on these shores in their tens (hundreds?) of thousands.

Names of new generation of Polish politicians and public figures were slowly finding their way to my consciousness again, but it was all strange, foreign, and surreal. Donald Tusk stood out with his speech about the power of love after he won the general election, possibly in 2007, but don’t quote me on dates. Tusk is better known here as the EU President during recent Brexit negotiations, but he is also an ex-PM of Poland.

The only thing I was still able to understand was the language, but even that had morphed into an inevitable twenty first century version of itself, which did not exist when I lived there.

Around the same time, but my time frames are wonky, reading about Poland online led me to a few shock discoveries. The biggest one was that Lech Wałęsa was no longer the Gdansk dockyard strike hero I remembered him to be.  His widely respected status as the Solidarity leader, the Peace Nobel Prize winner all forgotten; he was suddenly being denounced as a double agent and a traitor, seen as bringing nothing but shame and embarrassment to Poland worldwide. The shift in perception, brought about as a result of ongoing political in-fighting and mud-slinging, stayed mainly within Polish borders; the world at large continued to see Wałęsa as before – the one man symbol of Poland’s fight against Communism in the 1980s. The discovery of the change in Wałęsa’s status in Poland was a definite sign that Poland had become the country I no longer knew, the country in which nothing made sense any more.

Where am I going with this? Good question.

Let’s fast forward to the present day. Year 2020, glorious springtime weather.

The world that I do know is making shaky small steps out of lockdown. Public discussions revolve around when and under what conditions it might be safe to open schools, pubs, restaurants and IKEA stores. The threat of the second wave is paralysing the hope of long term return to normality. Finding the vaccine is the Holy Grail. We nervously listen to any new information coming out of China, just in case it’s more bad news. We read about what is happening in the US, and we shake our heads with disbelief. We are curious whether the Swedish way might prove a winner after all.  That’s more or less the mood of the last few weeks.

What is happening in Poland at these unprecedented times?

Poland is getting ready for their presidential election. Again. The election was originally scheduled for the 10th of May, the government refused to cancel it until the very last moment, there was a plan to hold it entirely by postal vote, but that caused issues with GDPR (Poland is held hostage to GDPR on the scale we cannot imagine here), it was finally postponed and now due to take place in July.

A new candidate has emerged recently, to join a long list of already existing candidates. Social media revel in comparing the level of spoken English the new candidate displays, against that of the incumbent president, to a marked disadvantage of the latter.

In other news, Polish small business owners have travelled to Warsaw every other Saturday afternoon for the last few weeks, to hold a ‘strike action’ as they call it, on the streets of the capital, where they are being challenged by the police for breaking social distancing rules. Arrests are made, faces are burned with nasty government-issue spray. From what I’ve seen online, the protests do not attract huge numbers of people, and from where I stand, it is not entirely clear what exactly their demands are. Admittedly, I might be standing too far. I asked a few better informed friends, but I got classic Polish answers – we are fighting for freedom, democracy, justice, dignity and did I mention freedom?

Poland walked away from Communism in 1989. That was a trendy thing to do at the time if you were an Eastern European country, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia all happening the same year.

Poland followed its own unique path to that historical junction, after an eventful decade of changes, taking the birth of Solidarity in 1980 and the Martial Law of 1981 in its stride.

What happened next continues, unbelievably, to this day.

31 years later people still accuse each other of past or present Communist sympathies, they call their political opponents ‘the commies’, although it is unclear to me what this term even means in 2020 Poland.

Catholic Church continues to play a huge part in Polish lives, their iron grip on the country’s ‘morality’ is unprecedented in Europe. The country is currently governed by a far right, ultra-Catholic, socially conservative Law and Justice party (L&J), their opponents quick to point out that Lawlessness and Injustice would be a more fitting name.
Abortion is illegal except in the most extreme life-saving situations.
Gay marriage is an offensive concept among considerable portion of Polish population. Homosexuality in general is seen as an abomination by more people than you would think possible in the 21st century.
Large shops are closed on three out of every four Sundays a month to allow Catholic Poles to respect God’s day of rest and spend this day with family, focused on worship and spiritual reflection.

There is more. There is an ongoing ‘assault on the independence of Polish judiciary’ if you listen to the opposition, or ‘the purging of the justice system of deep-rooted corruption’, if you are the government supporter.

Polish public has learnt to live with these rules and attitudes, although a large number of progressive liberal Poles despair about the country’s political direction.

The opposition is hopelessly fragmented and as such cannot agree a united front against the government. Every now and again a fresh face appears among the liberals – I use this term loosely, a catch-all for the anti L&J activists – and captures the hopes of all those who oppose current rule of hard-line Catholics. None of them stays long enough to mount successful campaign though, because nobody has recently managed to unite large enough numbers under their leadership. They either lack charisma, or they manage to offend various sections of society with their ill-advised comments, or both.
And then there are those who fantasise about bringing back Donald Tusk as the nation’s saviour in its hour of need. It’s all a mess.

Remember the outrage a few years ago when it was discovered that Polish immigrants in the UK were claiming British Child Benefit for children living in Poland? It would not happen now, the new Polish child benefit is five times higher than ours. No kidding. How can Polish government afford it? No idea, but their investment paid off and the Law and Justice party won their second term in office in October 2019. Their opponents say that they bribed their way to victory by offering generous packet of welfare benefits to the worst off sections of the population.

All these political squabbles and relentless anti-government mockery on social media continues this year, almost entirely undisturbed by Covid-19.  Official figures coming from Poland suggest that the pandemic had been kind to Poland with total of 1025 deaths at the time of writing (26/5/2020) in the country of nearly 38 million.

Are these figures to be trusted?
Who knows? It’s Poland. The country I no longer know, no longer comprehend.