2008 Spring Edition POLISH NEWS BYTES – Polish and Polonian news-briefs
By Robert Strybel, "The Polish Answer Man" POLISH NEWS BYTES – Polish and Polonian news-briefs
Polish News Bytes
Compiled by Robert Strybel, Our Warsaw Correspondent
ul. Kaniowska 24
01-529 Warsaw, Poland
parliament overwhelmingly approved a European Union reform treaty after the
government agreed to include safeguards proposed by President Lech Kaczynski.
The safeguards exempt Poland
from being forced to legalize homosexual “marriages”, ensure Poland
of more favorable voting rights until 2014 and protect against German property
became the sixth country in the 27-nation bloc to approve the treaty. Critics
claim the treaty is nothing more than a veiled attempt to rejuvenate the EU
constitution, which French and Dutch voters rejected in 2005 referenda, and
create a European superstate ruled by Brussels
Polish Prime Minister Donald
Tusk has become the first European Union government to declare he would
boycott the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing
this summer in protest against China’s
brutal reprisals against Tibet.
The Czech government has followed suit, and Tusk has tried to persuade other
European leaders to join in the campaign. Close to 80,000 Poles have signed
petitions calling on Tusk to set a negotiating team to mediate in the
Poles and Ukrainian will be able to travel freely within 50 kilometers
(about 30 miles) of the border without a visa. Prime Minister Donald
Tusk and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko signed an agreement to that
effect during his recent visit to Kyїv. Since Poland
entered the European Union’s visa-free Schengen zone, Poland’s
eastern border has become the outer border of the EU, requiring visas of non-EU
citizens to cross.
lifting of the visa requirement for tourists from Poland
and other EU countries has raised hopes that the United States may soon follow suit. The US is now the only NATO country still requiring visitors
from some alliance countries to apply for tourist visas. Last year, the
visa-rejection rate qualifying a country for visa waiver was lowered from 30 to
10 percent. At present Poland has a 13 percent denial rate. One reason is that fewer
Poles these days try to work on the sly in America when they can find legal jobs in the British Isles
and elsewhere in Europe.
Polish astronomers, led by Warsaw
University’s Professor Andrzej
Udalski, have discovered a planetary system in some ways similar to be a
scaled-down version of our own. Conducting their observations as part of the
Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE), they detected two large
planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn orbiting around a Sun some 4,500 light
years away. According to Udalski, that method allows us to determine
whether there are planets around a parent-star.
government has pledged to enact a property-restitution law by end of 2008.
Former owners will be eligible to receive 20 percent compensation for property
was seized by the Nazi Germans or Poland’s
communist rulers during and after World War II. About 80 percent of the confiscated
property had belonged to ethnic Poles, including Polish nobility whose lavish
palaces, mansions and manor houses were confiscated. The remaining 20 percent
of the lost property had belonged to Jews.
A disastrously low-priced dollar has struck a serious
blow at Poles with dollar bank accounts, receiving earnings denominated in US
currency or getting gifts of money from relatives in America.
In April, people exchanging their American greenbacks in Warsaw
were getting only 2.02 zlotys to the dollar. Very few Poles are still
considering trying to find work in the than in United
States, since the high travel cost makes it
even difficult to break even. About the only ones benefiting from the situation
are those traveling to the US
to see the country and/or go on a shopping spree. IT equipment is generally
much cheaper in America
than in Poland.
A freak April snowstorm paralyzed northwestern Poland’s
Szczecin region, damaging power
lines and leaving thousands without power, water and heat. Schools and factories
in the Baltic coastal region were closed, gas stations became inoperative and
people were advised to stay home until power was restored. Old Diesel and
coal-fired locomotives were temporarily put into emergency service after the
more modern electric-powered trains had ground to a halt. In recent months,
meteorological anomalies have abounded in Poland
which has experienced an unusually mild, spring-like winter and a wintry
Polish diplomats have reportedly been ordered to
shun contacts with Latin American Polonian leaders who have been critical of
the present Polish government and supportive of the controversial Catholic
right-wing radio station Radio Marya. Among those blacklisted are Jan
Kobylanski, president of the umbrella organization Union of Polish Associations
in Latin America, Marian Kurzac, who heads Juventus (Brazil’s
largest Polish organization) and Polish missionary priest Father Jerzy Morkis.
is upgrading its forces in Afghanistan
from 1,200 to 1,600 troops and plans to consolidate its participation in the
NATO-led operation against Taliban terrorists. At present, Polish soldiers are
scattered among six different bases but are soon expected to take
responsibility for the security of one the country’s eastern provinces. They
are also responsible for training Afghan forces and will contribute four
helicopters to the mission.
The 1996 Nobel Literary Prize laureate Wislawa Szymborska
has decried decommunization by Poland’s previous conservative government as
causing “more harm than good. Szymborska, 85, who once wrote poems
praising Stalin and communism, told Italy’s left-wing daily “La Reppublica” she
hoped the present liberal government would discontinue it. Asked to define the
spirit of the Polish nation, Szymborska said: “Most people don’t bother about
independent thinking and easily fall victim to collective suggestions…People
grow stupid wholesale and wise up retail.”
Armia Krajowa “bandits” are neutralized by
“courageous” Soviet agents in “Smersh”, a new fictional series being shown on
prime-time TV in neighboring Belarus.
Set in 1945 at the end of World War II, the film portrays Polish AK
freedom-fighters as roving bands of blood-thirsty thugs shown murdering the
bride, groom and guests at a Belarussian country wedding. The series has
outraged AK veterans in Belarus,
whose strongman Alexandr Lukashenka is widely regarded as Europe’s
was handed a humiliating 0-3 defeat by the US
national soccer team during an exhibition game played in Krakow
recently, where the fast-moving Americans clearly outclassed their Polish
rivals. A European victory is always a major achievement to a team from the US,
where soccer is growing in popularity but is still in its infancy. The defeat
was a major setback for the Poles who have qualified for the first time ever
for June’s European Soccer Championships being held in Austria
Civil marriages were chosen by nearly one-half of
all Polish newly-weds in 2007. After Poland
signed a Concordat with the Vatican
in 1998, Church marriages received equal status with civil ones and the vast
majority of couples chose to tie the knot at the altar. In 1999, only 31%
decided on only a civil wedding, but by 2006 that percentage had risen to 44.
Many couples feel they can always marry their present or some future spouse in
church and regard the civil marriage as a trial period which can be easily
terminated by divorce.
signs have been declared illegal in Lithuania,
and only those all in Lithuanian may remain, a court in Vilnius
(Wilno) ruled recently. Street signs in both Lithuanian and Polish may be
encountered in the Vilnius and
Soleczniki regions which were part of Poland
before World War II and still have a considerable indigenous Polish population.
Poles argue that the ruling violates European Union laws on the protection of
Former US Vice-President Al Gore visited Warsaw
recently to accept the Super Vector award for “awakening the world’s
long-dormant ecological conscience.” The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, known for
his tireless championing of environmental causes, congratulated Poland
on the ecological progress it has made in recent years and delivered a lecture
on the ongoing collapse of our planet’s climatic system.
One Pole was killed and 30 of his compatriots were
injured, several seriously, when a Polish tour bus careered off an Austrian
motorway and rolled down an embankment. The early-morning mishap occurred near Linz,
Austria, after the driver
apparently dozed off at the wheel. The packed bus was transporting a group of
Poles to a ski holiday in the Italian Alps. After the accident 23 decided to
return to Poland,
while 16 continued on their ski trip.
Polish female mountaineers, Katarzyna Sklodowska and
i Kinga Baranowska of Warsaw, are hoping to reach the top of Dhaulagiri 1, the
only more than 8,000-meter (26,000-foot) Himalayan peak never climbed by a
Polish woman. Last year, Baranowska had launched an assault on the mountain,
but an outburst of violent weather forced her back down with only 100 meters
(328 feet) to go.
“Who stole the kielbasa?” During
halftime at a first division soccer match between the local team Ruch Chorzow
and visiting Lech Poznan, some 200 unruly fans raided a refreshment stand at
Silesian Stadium in the southern city of Chorzow.
After devouring all the grilled sausage, they demolished the facility and
melted into the crowd. Police were analyzing closed-circuit TV monitoring to
identify and prosecute the culprits.