poland at a crossroads

Poland at a Crossroads



march take part announce
feature opponent mobilize (2)
impose celebrate campaign
rule support outrageous
threat suppress optimism
anti- roll back propaganda
join criticize passionately
whore common dictatorship
clip (2) tolerate media outlet
effigy accession contribution
MEP sensation collaborator
critic hang (2) hang in effigy
guard consider opposition
derive security intimidate
traitor pressure ruling party
rig (2) election destruction
benefit post (3) concession
reform battle cry controversial
secure judiciary dismantle
respect dismiss rule of law
district point out repeatedly
so be it decision unconstitutional
terribly explicitly catch by surprise
allow de facto administration
duty series (2) put her job at risk
call on authority legislative
accuse respond pattern (2)
openly principle executive (2)
set up interfere in such a way
file suit patience systematically
radical function assault (2)
honor chairman demonstration
vote adopt (2) unanimous
divide push (2) go far enough (2)
explain head (2) all time low
conflict not least impress (2)
rally sanction promote (2)
agenda suspend surrounded
victory fired (2) composition
accuse in person determination
at once anthem resistance
scandal isolated in his element
demote disagree


Video: Poland at the Crossroads



November 2017

The Polish capital Warsaw, last November. More than fifty-thousand people took part in a march, organized by right-wing nationalist groups.

Their battle cry: “Get Poland out of the EU!”

Their opponent: literal, Western Europe.

It’s part of the effort to mobilize White Catholics to fight for their country against the European Union.

Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party, was a featured speaker.

Jarosław Kaczyński, Law and Justice Party leader: “We will have the Poland we want. No one will impose their rule on us ever again.

Our victory is near.”

What is going on in Poland right now?

I’m returning to a country that I thought I knew well. But now it seems that I no longer do.

I worked as a reported in Warsaw for four years. When I left in 2004, Poland was celebrating its accession to the EU.

The popular vote in favor was overwhelming.

Róża Thun helped to organize Polish support for the EU.

At that time, there was a real sense of optimism throughout the country.

Last winter, I returned to Poland for the first time since then.

I found that things have changed. I received death threats. I was called a traitor, a whore of Brussels. And a Nazi.

I was accused of making anti-Polish propaganda films. I was even compared to Leni Reifenstein.

And all because I did a report about a woman who had fought passionately for Poland to join the EU — Roza Thun.

Today, Thun is a member of the European Parliament. She’s one of the few Polish politicians who openly criticize their government.

Róża Thun, MEP, European Parliament: “We fought for decades to establish democracy in Poland. And now they want to destroy it.

If this continues, Poland will become a dictatorship.”

My report caused a sensation in Polish media outlets that are close to the government. This particular clip was shown again and again on the main news programs, as an example of anti-Polish propaganda.

Adam Andruszkiewicz, News Anchor: “This is a scandal. It’s outrageous that a Polish MEP would make such a contribution to a foreign propaganda campaign.

A member of the ruling party called Thun a “Nazi collaborator”. Later, she received death threats. In the city of Katerica, she was hanged in effigy.

That’s why I decided to return. I want to understand how Poland could have gone from a country that I once perceived as liberal and open, to a place where critics of the government are now attacked as traitors.

My first stop is Warsaw, to meet Roza Thun again.

How is she dealing with the pressure?

The European Parliament considered the threats against her so serious, that they posted security guards outside her office. Thun doesn’t want things like that to happen in Poland.

Is she worried about her personal security?

Róża Thun, MEP, European Parliament: “You can’t live your life in fear. I’m not going to be intimidated by the fact that I’ve been threatened in my own country.

You have to live a normal life: this is my country. I don’t have to walk around with body guards.”

Thun believes that the political situation in Poland has become worse; not least because the courts are now largely controlled by the ruling party.

Róża Thun, MEP, European Parliament: “If the courts are no longer independent, it will be a lot easier to suppress the opposition, or rig election results.

That can have a negative effect on the economy.

All this amounts to the destruction of post-communist Poland.”

But Poland’s economy is doing pretty well right now. Few countries have benefitted more from EU membership.

Still the government is risking an open conflict with the European Union. In December, the government announced a series of controversial judicial reforms.

In general, they give politicians greater powers over the judiciary.

The dismantling of the rule of law has begun. Beata Morawiec, is one of a hundred-thirty (130) court presidents who have been demoted by the justice minister since last autumn.

Morawiec is a respected district court judge. She has repeatedly pointed out that the government’s proposed reforms are unconstitutional.

And she says that’s why she was fired.

The government’s decision caught her completely by surprise. One day, an official letter arrived.

That was that.

She was no longer head of the court.

Beata Morawiec, Former District Court Judge: “Let me show you: here’s the letter. I found it on Thursday afternoon when I got back to the office. It’s signed by the attorney general, effective immediately.

They gave no reason. Not one. Nothing.

And this thing is explicitly allowed by the new law. It has nothing to do with reforms. It’s just moving people around, in such a way as to give the government direct control over the courts.

They are bringing in people who are doing just what they are told. There’s no other way to explain it.”

But Morawiec is fighting the demotion: she’s filed suit against the justice ministry. And by doing that, she’s put her job at risk.

Beata Morawiec, Former District Court Judge: “I could be fired at any time. I believe every judge has a duty to protest what is going on. Because if we don’t, people in this country will no longer feel secure.”

The European Union said that the government’s plans are an assault on the rule of law and the principles of democracy.

In December, the European Commission called on Poland to roll back on the reforms at once.

European Commission Spokesperson: “The common pattern in all these legislative changes is that the executive and legislative powers are now set up in such a way that the ruling majority can systematically politically interfere with the composition of powers of the administration and the functioning of these authorities.”

The EU could suspect some of Poland’s rights within the organization.

The government did not seem terribly impressed by this threat.

Polish Official: “Any sanctions against us would have to be adopted unanimously. And we already know that Hungary will not vote against us.”

The government offers some small concessions, but the EU said it didn’t go far enough.

Poland’s relations with the European Union are now at an all-time low.

How did we get to this point?

At a demonstration in Warsaw, I saw Jarosław Kaczyński in person for the first time. He is the country’s de facto leader, and as such, he is pushing through his political program.

Kaczyński’s political power derives from the fact that he is chairman of the governing Law and Justice Party. Last year, he organized monthly rallies to honor his twin brother who was killed in a plane crash in 2010.

Kaczyński used these events to promote his political agenda — an agenda that has become increasingly radical.

Jarosław Kaczyński, Chairman of the Law and Justice Party: “Outsiders will never be able to impose their will on us again. And if that means we become isolated within Europe, so be it.

I repeat, victory is near. We must keep moving forward with patience and determination.”

But Poland is deeply divided. Members of political opposition groups are here to protest. They accuse the government of lying. Some protesters carry white roses, symbols of resistance.

Kaczyński supporters respond by singing Poland’s national anthem.

The police are here to protect them. Officers also arrest a number of the opposition protesters, even though their demonstration has been approved by the authorities.

Kaczyński is in his element here, surrounded by supporters. Reports say he does not tolerate any criticism of his policies. Even close party colleagues who disagree with him have been dismissed.


*     *     *     *     *     *     *



1. All Poles are staunchly pro-EU, pro-Western. Is this entirely true, mostly true, partially true, mostly false, or completely false?

2. Is the reporter very familiar with Poland and Poles? Has the country changed considerably in fourteen years? If yes, what was Poland like in 2004?

3. Who is Roza Thun? Is she a journalist?

4. Does the ruling party like, dislike or is neutral towards Roza Thun and the reporter?

5. Polish politics has changed considerably since its accession into the EU. Is this right or wrong? Has the change been for the “better” or “worse”?

6. The EU is at loggerheads with Poland. Is this correct or incorrect? What was the main issue? What case or example did they present?

7. Is the most powerful person in Poland the president? Do people criticize him?

8. Does the police only catch criminals and prevent crime?


A. What may happen to Poland? What is the future of Poland?

B. Why is this happening in Poland? Could something similar occur in France or the UK?

C. My country has close cultural, historical and trade ties with Poland. Yes or no?

D. How should Brussels respond? Can or should they do anything?

E. How can democracy be championed?

Comments are closed.