Thursday, 31 May 2012

POLAND / HISTORY: Operation Vistula-- A Necessary Evil (P. Dybicz)

Ethnic Ukrainians being deported from a village in SE Poland during Operation Vistula
Background: Operation Vistula (Polish: Akcja Wisła)  was carried out by Poland's Communist government between April and July 1947 in the south-eastern corner of modern-day Poland. The objectives were twofold: the military supression of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and the deportation of ethnic Ukrainian civilians, as well as the related Boyko and Lemko ethnic groups, to resettlement in areas of northern and western Poland which had previously belonged to Germany.

Some argue that the operation was an unfortunate but necessary measure to prevent further inter-communal violence in the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands. It can also be seen as a response to the various massacres of Polish citizens carried out by the UPA during the war. Others argue that Operation Vistula was a shameful act of collective punishment and ethnic cleansing carried out by a totalitarian regime. The following article makes the former argument, whilst a second article to be translated and posted some time soon(ish) makes the latter argument from the point of view of an eyewitness who was deported as a child.


Although 65 years have now passed since Operation Vistula, it does not provoke any less discussion and controversy than it did in the past. One could even say that it creates more debate now than when it was carried out...

Monday, 28 May 2012

OPINION: Piotr Żuk-- On France, Greece and Poland

The French are the latest electorate to go and let down the Polish media by choosing a leftist President. For Pemier Donald Tusk, who could not find the time to meet the Socialist candidate during his visit to Poland, the French election results must have come as a big disappointment. The same can be said for most of the Polish commentariat. Jacek Pałasiński, host of 'The World According to Jacek' on TVN, said on the eve of the election, "it will be interesting to see if the French re-elect Sarkozy and then breathe a sigh of relief, or if they decide to think short-term and elect Francoise Hollande, who will lead them into further debt." Witold Gadomski, the economic expert for 'Gazeta Wyborcza' and guardian of neo-liberal purity, said "Hollande, like Socialist leaders all over Europe, knows that he does not have the possibility to implement radical reforms in the economic sphere. Socialists criticise modern capitalism but they do not have a real programme for change... They rail against the dictates of the financial markets and the ratings agencies but at the end of the day they are dependent on them. They know that the markets do not mess around. For electoral reasons they play up to the left-wing gallery but they do so without too much conviction, in order to let the markets know that they do not really mean it."

It is mainly in this spirit that the 'free media' in Poland have analysed the French elections. To their minds, the politcal left should simply not exist but if it does have to exist then it should at least not meddle in socio-economic matters. In the socio-economic sphere the market fundamentalists have a monopoly on absolute truth. What does it matter that blind faith in the power of the invisible hand of the market has led the world into crisis? If anyone attempts to present a serious left-wing economic agenda then the Liberal-Conservative pundits say that they are faking it, or that they are populist, or that they are simply economic illiterates who have not read the sacred texts of Friedman or heard the sermons of Balcerowicz. One way or another, they are a dangerous heretic who should be fought against tooth and nail with no quarter given.

Friday, 18 May 2012

POLAND / HISTORY: Freemasons And Anti-Masonry In Poland-- An Interview With Prof. Tadeusz Cegielski

Tadeusz Cegielski, Professor of History at Warsaw University, Freemason and  Honorary Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Poland.

Q: Archbishop Józef Michalik-- leader of the Polish Episcopate and doctor of  Dogmatic Theology-- has accused Freemasons of attacking the Catholic Church. Where does this fear of Freemasonry, which seems to have been handed down by generations of Polish clergy, stem from?

A: Fear and suspicion of Freemasonry arise from the need for a symbolic enemy on whom all problems can be blamed. A scapegoat in other words. In Poland we once had 3 types of 'internal enemies': Jews, Freemasons and Bolsheviks. Since the fall of the USSR Bolsheviks are no longer seen as a threat. Anti-Semitism has been formally condemned by the Catholic Church. Even here in Poland it is hard to imagine the Church hierarchy openly pandering to anti-Semitic prejudices. Who is left to use as a scapegoat? Freemasons, of course!

Q: Where and when did the idea of the 'evil and godless' Freemason first appear?

A: Anti-Masonry in its current form first appeared in the era of the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars. In 1789 in Rome, then the capital of the Papal States, there appeared an international adventurer, fake count and fraudulent alchemist-- the infamous Alessandro di Cagliostro, also known as Giussepe Balsamo. This very talented Sicilian Jew was active in Masonic cirlces and he created  Egyptian Rite Freemasonry in 1782. Possessed by messianic ideas, he announced the advent of a 'New Israel'. In Rome he was denounced by his own wife and was arrested and tried by the Inquisition. The trial caused unheard of levels of publicity and reports of it were published all over Europe in many different languages, including Polish. In France the revolution was in full swing and the gullotine was claiming victim after victim. Cagliostro claimed-- somewhat against his will-- that the Masons had killed the French royal family in revenge for the fate which had befallen the Knights Templar.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

POLAND: Bałtów's Jurassic Park-- Community Spirit In Action ( K. Kapiszewski )

Bałtów's Jurassic Park attracted 70,000 visitors in its first year and employs 54.

Not everyone has heard of Bałtów, but plenty of people have. The commune, with a population of 4,000 including 600 in the main village, has appeared twice on 'Dzień Dobry TVN'. It might be day-time TV but it is also nationwide TV. The media like Bałtów because it is a good example of how to make something from nothing by working together. The commune attracts half a million tourists a year. Despite the name, Bałtów is not a seaside resort. It is located in the north of the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, far from the main transport links. How did a small commune, down in the doldrums, transform itself into a place where anything is possible?

 Poland's transition from Communism to capitalism was not kind to Bałtów. Unemployment reached 40%. There was no mobile phone coverage and no internet. Both the library and cultural centre were closed down. In 2001 a campaign against the opening of a new nightclub brought together a group of people, mostly teachers and local business people, who wanted something different for Bałtów. Together they founded 'Bałt', a grassroots organisation aimed at encouraging development. The founders all realised that the only chance for their commune lay with tourism.