STRYBEL’S POLISH NEWS BYTES (June 2, 2007)
By Robert Strybel, "The Polish Answer Man"
STRYBEL’S POLISH NEWS BYTES (June 2, 2007)
A deal on a US anti-missile base in Poland could be signed in September, if all goes, well, Poland’s chief missile-defense negotiator Witold Waszczykowski said following the latest round of talks in Washington. The agreement would allow the US to install 10 interceptors in Poland with a radar center in the neighboring Czech Republic to counteract possible ballistic missile attacks on the US by such rogue states as Iran or North Korea. Waszczykowski dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to relocate the site as an attempt to sidetrack the negotiations.
Poland wants to add a “morality clause” to the draft Reforming Treaty now being prepared by the European Union to replace a Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. The clause would protect Poland against EU meddling in its public morality, family affairs and religious matters and would not allow Polish citizens to sue their own country before the European Tribunal of Justice over such issues. Britain has opted out of EU control over its judicial, police, welfare and immigration laws and forbids referring labor disputes to the Luxemburg-based Tribunal.
Polish-German strains have been sensationalized by the media, including a German magazine showing Poland’s Kaczynski twins riding on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s back. A Polish weekly replied by labeling a bare-breasted Merkel suckling the two Kaczyñskis “Europe’s stepmother.” At the EU’s recent summit, Poland dredged up Germany’s Hitler-era sins, and Merkel threatened to exclude Poland from future negotiations. But a compromise was ultimately reached, and both countries hope to improve two-way ties. Recent surveys show that 61% percent of Poles like Germans, and 65 percent of Germans reciprocate in kind.
Of Poland’s 132 living bishops, one was registered as an agent of the former Communist secret police and about a dozen or so others were listed as informers, a special commission of the Polish Episcopate has announced. But Bishop Sùawój Leszek Gùódê declined to name names, saying the surviving files were too “chaotic and incomplete” to be conclusive. After the 1989 collapse of Poland’s Communist, Gen. Jaruzelski had his henchmen hastily destroy tons of secret-police documents, and Church-related ones were among the first to go.
Hospital strikes and pay protests by doctors, nurses and other medical personnel disrupted medical services across Poland at the start of summer. A tent town of irate nurses outside government headquarters in Warsaw has been the focus of the protest which has included noisy street marches and the occupation of a government office. The pay increases promised by the authorities have fallen short of the protesters’ demands.
Poland’s request to rename Auschwitz, Nazi Germany’s most notorious death camp, was approved at UNESCO’s recent session held in New Zealand. Last year, the Polish government asked the UN’s Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization to change the name of the World Heritage Site to Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German Concentration and Extermination Camp in a bid to avoid confusion over its origin. Due to its location, the international media have mistakenly referred to the camp as “Polish”, although it was conceived, built and controlled by Germans.
A 1985 plan to kill Lech Walesa is being investigated by the National Remembrance Institute, an official body that researches and prosecutes communist-era crimes. During a break in his sentence for killing a policeman, a convict told Walesa he had been instructed to murder the Solidarity leader. Morski returned to complete his sentence but was found hanged shortly before he was due to leave prison. His daughter believes her father’s alleged suicide had been staged to cover up the secret police assassination plan.
Poland wants Germany to officially declare property claims illegal. Last year, a group of German refugees working through a pressure group called the Prussian Trust filed such suit with the European Tribunal of Human Rights, arguing that they were unlawfully deprived of their land when they were expelled from Poland after World War II. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said the German state would not support any Prussian Trust claims against Poland but stopped short of calling them illegal.
Prisoners may help Poland prepare for the Euro soccer championships it is co-hosting with Ukraine in 2012. According to Paweù Nasiùowski, the deputy chief of Poland’s prison service, the use of up to 20,000 convicts in building much-needed stadiums, roads and hotels could also be a way of rehabilitating them. Poland’s booming construction industry is now short-handed, because so many Poles have gone to Western Europe in search of better pay.
Poland’s best-known formula 1 driver, Robert Kubica, reportedly invoked the late John Paul II during a severe crash at the Canadian Grad Prix in Montreal. After his BMW racer flipped over several times, smashed into the barrier and fell apart, Kubica was pulled from the twisted wreckage with only a leg sprain. His case may be included in the periodical “Totus Tuus” which chronicles medically unexplainable cures attributed to the intercession of the late Polish-born Pontiff.
“Defiance”, a Hollywood super-production with anti-Polish overtones being directed by Edward Zwick, is due to be released in 2008. Starring Daniel Craig (the current James Bond), the movie will try to show that some Jews fought back against the Germans by highlighting a partisan group, set up by the Jewish Bielski family in northeastern Poland around the town of Lida. The Jewish partisans, who collaborated with the Soviets, are regarded as war criminals by Poles, because their exploits included the massacre of 128 Polish villagers in Naliboki.
Polish migrant workers sent almost £1.1 billion (about $2.2 billion) from jobs in the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe in the first three months of this year, the National Bank of Poland reported recently, a 25 percent increase over the same period last year. Some British media have complained that the money that could have spent in domestic shops and restaurants is being siphoned out of the United Kingdom’s economy. They often overlook the fact that Polish manpower is adding many times more value to the UK’s economic growth.
A “Polish Foreign Legion” is not being planned by Poland’s armed forces, a defense spokesman said recently. He was responding to news reports suggesting such an option was being considered by the Polish General Staff in an attempt to deal with declining recruitment. Poland is gradually moving away from the draft towards an all-career army, but fewer career soldiers are willing to work for 1,200-1,400 zùotys ($420-$490) a month, when they can earn five times as much at less dangerous civilian jobs in the British Isles and elsewhere abroad.
Poland remains a European hot spot for real-estate investments, according to Assetz Plc, a well-known British-based assets-management firm. The company’s investment-tracking analysts have found that over the past year real-estate investments in Poland have produced a 100 percent total return on the cash invested. Assetz (email@example.com) predicts that the country will maintain its strong position for the rest of 2007. The second best venue is Bulgaria producing a 71 percent rate of return on real-estate investments.
The cornerstone has been laid for Warsaw’s Historical Museum of Polish Jews to be built on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. President Lech Kaczyñski, who attended the recent ceremony, said Jewish life had flourished in Poland before millions of Jews were killed by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust. Poland had been home to some 3.5 million Jews before World War II, but most of them were killed by the Nazis. Thousands more emigrated following the 1968 anti-Semitic purge by the then-ruling communist regime. The Jewish community in Poland today is estimated at between 15,000 and 50,000.
A modern film-making complex is being built on a 1,175-acre site at Nowe Miasto nad Pilicà at a cost of about €100 million (app. $135 million). Located some 50 miles south of Warsaw, it hopes to attract international movie-makers as a less expensive alternative to London’s famous Pinewood Studios and the Barrandov Studios in the Czech capital. Everything needed to produce feature and short films, documentaries and TV commercials will be available on the spot including an actors’ agency, vehicle and horse rental, historic sets and special-effects workshops.
A new Paderewski may have been accidentally discovered at Scotland’s Glasgow University, where Aleksander Kudajczyk, had been working as a janitor since early 2007. In his spare time the 28-year-old Katowice Music Academy graduate would practice the piano in the university chapel, where he was heard by the chaplaincy’s secretary. The discovery led to his first public performance of Chopin selections which was a big success. Kudajcyzk, who has played piano since the age of four, has performed in restaurants in Poland and on cruise lines in America and now hopes to teach piano or become a concert pianist in Scotland.
King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia has received the Order of the Smile at a ceremony held in Warsaw recently. The Saudi monarch had financed the successful surgical separation of Polish Siamese twins Olga and Daria at his country’s most advanced hospital and continues to follow their progress. He was the 800th cavalier of the UN-sanctioned, Polish-originated Order, which has been awarded to people from 45 countries for bringing smiles to the faces of needy youngsters. It recipients have included the late Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
47 food products produced by 18 different companies received good-food awards presented by Polish agriculture minister Andrzej Lepper at a recent food fair in Warsaw. The honors went to natural, high-quality sausages, cheeses, breads, sweets and other products produced the traditional way. The longest line was seen at the brewery stand, where free beer made without additives to speed up the brewing process was being poured.
The legendary Orient Express, a train made famous by mystery writer Agatha Christie, is visiting Poland this year. For the price of about $8,000. 200 passengers are traveling across Europe in old-style elegance, enjoying gourmet meals on elegant china, live music, a well-stocked bar and all the trappings of luxury. Stops along the route, which starts in Venice, Italy, include Vienna, Prague, Krakow, Warsaw and Malbork, the site of Europe’s biggest Gothic-style brick stronghold.
The works of a Polish artist have been featured for the first time by the world’s oldest auction house, Sotheby’s of Amsterdam, where 163 of Witold Kaczanowski’s paintings and sculpture have gone on display. Kaczanowski, 75, is known internationally as Witold-K, due the problems non-Poles have had with his quadrisyllabic surname. His art works, including set designs and graphic projects are known across Europe and America, where he has made his home for the past quarter-century in Denver, Colorado. www.witoldk.com
The town of Wachock, the standing butt of jokes in Poland, recently held its annual “soltys” (hamlet mayor) festival for local village chiefs from all over the Swietokrzyskie region. Competitions included cutting an egg in half with a whip, throwing a pitchfork at a straw effigy of a mother-in-law and trying to hit an outhouse with a rolling truck tire. According to a tongue-in-cheek tradition, Wachock elects its mayor by rolling a tire down a hill. The one whose house it strikes becomes mayor.
Former President Lech Walesa has published 500 pages of communist-era secret police files on his website (www.mojageneracja.pl/1980) to silence his detractors who helped set up Solidarity and accuse him of being a communist collaborator. He said the files show how his fiercest critics, Anna Walentynowicz and Andrzej and Joanna Gwiazda, were manipulated by the secret police in order to sow discord in the Soviet bloc’s first free trade union. “When they read them I hope they apologize to me and return the White Eagle decorations they received for their Solidarity activity,” Walesa told this reporter.
Poland may veto stalled talks on a European Union constitution unless there is more discussion on a new voting system. At present, medium-sized countries such as Poland (population: 38 million) and Spain (40 million) have 27 votes in the EU Council compared with 29 for the Germany (82 million). The EU’s current German presidency wants Poland to accept a drastic cut in voting power. Warsaw is proposing a compromise square-root-based system under which Germany would have nine votes, Poland and Spain – six and tiny Malta (population 400,000) – one vote.
Poland continues to deny Council of Europe allegations that it allowed the CIA to hold suspected terrorists on his territory. This included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who has admitted masterminding the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Poland’s former president and its present authorities have consistently denied the existence of any CIA-run terrorist detention centers on Polish soil.
Anti-Polish activities by local youth-affairs offices in Germany have come under the scrutiny of the European Union which regards them as discrimination on the basis of nationality. The divorced Polish spouses of German citizens are being prevented from speaking Polish to their children during visits, since German social workers cannot understand what is being said. Some German officials claim that having the youngsters know Polish will delay their assimilation to the country’s leading language and culture.
A stiff anti-smoking bill is being prepared by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party. In addition to schools and health-service facilities, where smoking is already banned, the bill would make it illegal to smoke in bars and restaurants as well as in private cars. According to a recent poll, 67 percent of those surveyed favour the bar and restaurant ban but only 33 percent want smoking motorists penalized.
Janina Wasilewska, accompanied by her six-year old US-born son Brian, has arrived in Warsaw after being deported by US immigration authorities. Arriving in Chicago in 1989, months before the collapse of Poland’s communist regime, she requested political asylum. In 1995, Wasilewska said she was misled into signing a pledge to leave the US, if her request were denied, but did not know English well enough to know what she was signing. She has no close kin or place to live in Poland, having left her home and husband in Chicago.
The world's best-known Polish prizefighter, Andrew Gołota, made a triumphant comeback in Katowice recently by TKO-ing American Jeremy Bates in the second round before a packed audience of wildly cheering fans. This was the first fight in two years for the 39-year-old heavyweight who has made his home in Chicago for many years. In his career, the “Polish bomber” he has had a number of below-the-belt fouls and once fled the ring after being battered senseless by Mike Tyson. Gołota's record now stands at 39 wins, including 31 knockouts, six losses, one no-contest and one draw.
Two Poles have crossed the Baltic on motorized hang-gliders, the lightest self-propelled aircraft known. Tomasz Chudziński (37) and Janusz Adamczak (43) had allowed from 4 to 6 hour for the flight, but favorable winds enabled them to cover the 200-kilometer (125-mile) route from Poland to Sweden in 3.5 hours. The pilots, both hang-glider instructors at a Poznan flying school, compared their feat to the first plane crossing of the Atlantic.
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