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Posts tagged ‘Patient Land of Poland’

Trump to speak to Poles at site that honors nation’s heroism

June 22, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen to deliver a speech during his upcoming visit to Poland at the site of a memorial to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Germans, a Polish official says.

Krzysztof Szczerski, an aide to Polish President Andrzej Duda, said late Wednesday that it is an honor for Poles that Trump will give a major speech at Krasinski Square, “a site which symbolizes Polish heroism.”

The speech will come during a brief visit that Trump will make to Warsaw on July 6 before he attends a summit of Group of 20 leaders in Hamburg, Germany. In Warsaw, Trump will also attend a summit devoted to the Three Seas Initiative, a relatively new effort to expand and modernize energy and infrastructure links in a region of Central Europe from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Adriatic and Black seas in the south.

The Warsaw Uprising, the largest act of resistance in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, saw insurgents and civilians fight the German occupiers for more than two months. The revolt was brutally crushed and resulted in the death of more than 200,000 Poles and the destruction of Warsaw.

Today, it stands for Poles as one of the most heroic episodes in their history, an act of courage against a brutal occupier. The presence of a U.S. president on that spot will be a welcome gesture to many Poles, including Polish-Americans in the United States, a constituency that tends to be conservative and that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

It is also clearly a diplomatic success for Poland’s conservative government, which has made it a key policy aim to increase knowledge abroad of positive episodes in Poland’s past, part of an effort to improve the country’s image internationally.

Poland gathers data on foreigners in the country

May 29, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s deputy defense minister has cited security concerns in Europe as he tries to justify a move to gather data on foreigners visiting and living in the country. A mostly homogenous and Catholic nation, Poland is refusing to accept migrants from the Middle East and Africa. The stance has drawn condemnation from European Union leaders.

The Defense Ministry has requested from authorities in western Poland information on foreigners in their region. The request has drawn vehement criticism from the political opposition, which says such an approach equates foreigners with threats.

Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk on Monday argued that it is a “natural thing, taking into consideration the situation in the European Union today, that the state should have information on foreign nationals on Poland’s territory.”

Poland unveils memorial to WWII hero slain by communists

May 13, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Warsaw’s mayor unveiled a monument Saturday to a World War II hero who volunteered to go to the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp and informed firsthand on atrocities there but was later executed by Poland’s communist regime.

The stone-and-metal memorial for Capt. Witold Pilecki is located near the place where in September 1940 the clandestine army fighter let himself be caught by the occupying Nazi Germans. It was a step toward becoming an inmate of Auschwitz, which the Germans operated in southern Poland.

Pilecki’s son, Andrzej Pilecki, and daughter, Zofia Pilecka-Optulowicz, and other descendants joined hundreds of Warsaw residents and authorities at Saturday’s ceremony. Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Pilecki was twice victorious, first when he was ready to sacrifice his life for the defense of Poland and second when the memory of him and other resistance fighters survived the communist regime.

Pilecki wrote and smuggled out secret reports from Auschwitz to his superiors before fleeing under the cover of the night in April 1943. As a freedom fighter, he was caught by the Moscow-backed communist government imposed on Poland after the war, and after a year of brutal questioning and torture, was executed in May 1948.

His body was dumped in a mass grave and his name was taboo, as the regime wanted to erase every trace of the freedom fighters from public awareness while trying to subdue the nation. Historians are still looking for Pilecki’s remains.

Poland, now a democracy, is making efforts to fill in such blank pages from the nation’s past with ceremonies honoring wartime and anti-communist heroes. At first, Polish resistance fighters were held and executed at Auschwitz. In 1942, the Birkenau part was added as a death camp for Europe’s Jews, who were the majority among some 1.1 million people killed there. The Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz in January 1945.

Poles protest their populist govt with large rally in Warsaw

May 06, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Thousands of Poles marched through Warsaw on Saturday to protest the policies of the populist ruling party under Jaroslaw Kaczynski, describing them as attacks on the country’s democracy.

Speakers at the “March of Freedom” said the government under the conservative Law and Justice party has eroded the independence of Poland’s courts and other institutions to such an extent that the country would not be accepted into the European Union or NATO today if it didn’t already belong.

“We will not allow Kaczynski to take us out of Western Europe. Together we will defend freedom,” said Jacek Jaskowiak, the mayor of Poznan, a city in western Poland. The event was organized by the opposition Civic Platform party, but other opposition parties and the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, a civic organization, also took part.

They are concerned about how Law and Justice has consolidated power since taking office in 2015. The party has eroded the independence of the courts and the public media in a way that has also alarmed the EU.

Kaczynski said Saturday that the protesters were misguided. “Freedom exists in Poland and only those who do not perceive reality can question that,” he said. City Hall, which is under the control of Civic Platform, estimated that 90,000 people took part in the protest. The police, under the government’s command, put the number at 12,000.

Either way, it was much smaller than the 240,000 who protested against the government in May 2016. Separately, a yearly pro-EU parade called the Schumann Parade also took place Saturday in Warsaw.

Poland police forcibly remove anti-nationalist protesters

April 29, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Police in Poland used force Saturday to remove a few dozen protesters who tried to block a march in downtown Warsaw by a nationalist organization celebrating its anniversary. The protesters chanted “Poland, free from fascism!” and sat down in the street as they waited for marchers from the National-Radical Camp to arrive.

The group, supported by Poland’s nationalist government, was celebrating 83 years since its foundation. A few hundred members marched with white-and-red flags, chanting anti-migrant slogans. Police detained and handcuffed some in the group protesting the march, since they had not obtained authorization for it. The new law regulating public gatherings was introduced by the conservative ruling Law and Justice party. Police also used force on journalists reporting about the event, pushing and even kicking them.

The nationalists’ march was directed down a different route in the Polish capital to avoid clashes with their opponents. Every march now must be authorized or face sanctions.

Polish leader welcomes NATO troops, hails ‘historic moment’

April 13, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish leaders welcomed a new multinational NATO battalion to Poland on Thursday, with the president calling it “a historic moment for my country.” The near-permanent deployment of a NATO battalion under U.S. command marks the first time NATO troops have been placed so close to Russian territory, a step the Kremlin denounces as a threat to its own security.

But Polish President Andrzej Duda said the deployment, to Poles, stands as a symbol of liberation and inclusion in the Western democratic world. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that generations of Poles have waited for this moment since the end of the Second World War,” Duda said in the northeastern town of Orzysz as he addressed the troops and the U.S. and British ambassadors.

The battalion of about 1,000 troops is led by the United States, but includes troops from Britain and Romania. Croatian troops are expected to join later. Their base of operations, Orzysz, is 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the border with Kaliningrad, a Russian territory on the Baltic Sea separated from the Russian mainland.

While NATO has held exercises in the region in past years, the deployment marks the alliance’s first continuous troop presence in the area that was considered by defense experts as vulnerable. Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said the NATO presence guarantees the security of NATO’s eastern flank.

The NATO deployment is separate from a U.S. battalion of 3,500 troops that arrived in Poland earlier this year and which is headquartered in southwestern Poland, near the German border. Both missions are responses to calls for greater U.S. and NATO protection by a region fearful after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for a rebel insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Schism rifts Poland’s ruling party over minister’s assistant

April 12, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A conflict has erupted in the top ranks of Poland’s ruling party that pits the party’s powerful chairman against the country’s defense minister. At the center of the dispute is a 27-year-old male assistant to Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz who has enjoyed unusual privileges, raising eyebrows in Warsaw.

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Wednesday suspended the assistant, Bartlomiej Misiewicz, from the party and ordered a commission to investigate the lucrative defense industry jobs and other preferential treatment he has received. Misiewicz was to appear before the commission Thursday.

The moves are meant to “protect the good image of the Law and Justice party,” party spokeswoman Beata Mazurek said. In his role as ministry spokesman, Misiewicz has been saluted by soldiers and called “minister,” honors not normally imparted to civilians.

Misiewicz, a former pharmacy assistant without a university degree, also has been given lucrative jobs in the defense industry under Macierewicz. His treatment has raised ethics concerns in a party that won office promising to fight corruption.

He was appointed last year to the supervisory board of Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ), one of the largest defense consortiums in Central Europe. The company’s bylaws state its board members must have college degrees, but the rules were changed to let Misiewicz join.

The Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper reported this week that Misiewicz was given a job with PGZ that pays 50,000 zlotys ($12,500) a month, huge sum in a country where the average pre-tax wage is about $1,150 a month.

The company denied the claim, but it appeared to be the trigger for Kaczynski’s decision to order an investigation into Misiewicz. Some observers think Misiewicz is part of a larger power struggle between Kaczynski and the defense minister.

“It’s a new war at the top,” said Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, head of a small opposition party, PSL.

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