Poland recently made international headlines after an LGBT parade of a few hundred marchers in Bialystok had to confront resistance. The international highlighted the issue.
Bialystok is a small city in Eastern Poland with a population of around 300,000 people. This was their first-ever gay parade. The geography is important to note because the more East you go, the more conservative it gets in Poland, and here conservatism is based on the traditional values of the Catholic Church.
After this “unfortunate event” the mainstream media put all the Poles into the same bag – mostly as “racist barbarians”. This is not an accurate depiction of the Polish people. According to a poll done in April, a quarter of citizens believe homosexuality is not normal and cannot be accepted, while others think it should be tolerated. Some Polish Twitter users also expressed support for gay rights in Poland as part of the #jestemLGBT campaign.
During its communism years (1945-1989) the Polish Catholic Church was the bastion of opposition, despite numerous money-laundering incidents, paedophile priests, it still is a major power in Poland, especially in the far eastern cities like Bialystok. However, recent years have been quite dark for the Polish Church, with several books and movies being released exposing paedophilia among the priests and bishops. The Catholic Church almost means PiS (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) in Poland. There are documented incidents of priests officially telling people to vote for PiS. The government directs financial support in the form of grants to the Church and its institutions.
PiS is a national-conservative, Christian democratic, socialist party which has been at this moment more popular than any other political party but also has the biggest number of determined opponents. Their popularity is largely based on their populist appeal as the previous governments were considered by the Poles to be ‘the establishment’ which was disconnected from its citizens.
Strangely though over the last two years, since the PiS (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) has been the ruling party, LGBT marches have been on the rise. In 2019 alone, 24 parades were scheduled to take place around the country, there were 15 marches in 2018, seven in 2017 and six in 2016. The sudden escalation on LGBT rights in a conservative country like Poland makes you wonder who is behind it and what are the political motives.
When speaking to Anna Baranska, a freelance artist based in Warsaw about her views on the recent protests, she said, “there is more gay parades and homosexuality focus in Poland than any other issue these days, and for sure it is effectively creating a big divide among the Polish people.”
In the past, LGBT parades were only ever seen in the capital city Warsaw, but recent years have seen this spread to other cities across the country. A week after the first LGBT protest, Bialystok hosted another march on July 27, Saturday under the name “No to Violence”. It was peaceful and bigger and a reaction to the rise of homophobic and transphobic language by Poland’s Catholic leaders and PiS.
Wojciech Wawrzyniec a corporate marketing manager from the city of Kielce stated: “The Church has always been popularising the traditional family model and LGBT parades are against those values. We know the Church is closely connected to PiS, so yes, I do think that recent large amount of LGBT parades has some connection with the autumn election. I support the PiS though.”
If you go into an Australian mining town, protesting to make them adopt solar power, it may not go down too well? I am sure there is a better way to change people’s opinion. Pointing a finger into someone’s face shouting “You must accept me” probably won’t be very effective. Instead of creating further divide let us embrace and understand the definition of democracy in its true sense. Bialystok is not going to suddenly turn into California. Organising 24 LGBT parades a year in an ultra-Catholic country like Poland and making headlines on reactions won’t help gay people. It will help create another Trump. Maybe this something very important for the Polish people to understand and to be aware of.
Poland was always one of the most tolerant countries in the World, had the largest Jewish settlement in the world, at the moment there are more than two millions Ukrainians living in Poland, about 50,000 Chechen Muslims, Vietnamese, Chinese and Nepalese – do we hear about any violent attacks against these minorities, not really. But if these people would start organising demonstrations about “more rights for them” we would see some violent attacks and people turning against them.
Ever since PiS is in charge, so many things have been showing up in the news about Poland and it hurts me because if you see foreigners who were there, they will say one thing: “it’s a beautiful and surprisingly developed country full of really-friendly people.”
Poles are far from being crystal clear. The current PiS government is using cheap and simple propaganda. They are populists but it is more than unfair to show current opposition in Poland as the true representatives of the nation and liberation for Poland.