ON APRIL 28, 2006, “March of Toleration,” a gay parade, was attacked in Kraków. Youth activists of the parliamentary party League of Polish Families threw stones, eggs, bottles, and slurs at peaceful GLBT marchers. The parade was headed by the Campaign Against Homophobia, Poland’s largest gay organization. Former deputy prime minister Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka and representatives of Green and leftist parties participated in the march. Gay activists from Germany and Sweden joined in. When stones were pelted at the gay parade, Jaruga-Nowacka took shelter in the arms of Robert Biedron, president of the Campaign Against Homophobia.
The attackers were activists of All-Polish Youth, a militia of the League of Polish Families Party that sits in the Polish parliament (as well as the European parliament). Attackers threw stones that they had pulled from the walls of the royal castle of Kraków. Two people were seriously injured. Twelve attackers were arrested by the police. The All-Polish Youth were joined in Kraków by the National Revival of Poland Party, which denies the Holocaust. The National Revival of Poland devised a campaign “Zakaz pedalowania” (“Ban the fag”).
The roots of the League of Polish Families go back to Poland’s anti-Semitism in the interwar period. The grandfather of the current leader, Roman Giertych, was Jedrzej Giertych, an ultranationalist politician in the 1930’s and author of Towards Ending the Crisis (1938), where he called for the expulsion of Jews from Poland. Jedrzej’s son Maciej, who’s still a League activist, supports religion-based “conversion therapy” for gays. Because of their rabid chauvinism, the books of Jedrzej and Maciej Giertych were withdrawn from Poland’s stand at the 2000 Frankfurt Book Fair.
The leader of the League of Polish Families, Roman Giertych, led the self-styled “Parade of Normality” that marched in Warsaw on June 18, 2005. Organized by the All-Polish Youth, it was permitted to march by Warsaw’s mayor, Lech Kaczynski, and reflected the homophobic, misogynistic, and xenophobic fundamentalism of Poland today.
Open hatred as a political strategy is manifested also in the use of the offensive terms pederasta (pederast) and pedal (fag) by politicians from the League of Polish Families in the election campaign and recently during parliamentary debates and in the media. In the election campaign on June 10, 2005, just before the main news bulletin of the State TV, an election advertisement of the League of Polish Families was aired in which a young male supporter of the party said: “I have the courage to say that two pederasts are not man and wife.” Poland’s far right is entering the political mainstream. Lesbians and gays are depicted as abnormal, anti-social, and abject. Being gay is presented as a biological and cultural threat to the Polish nation, threatening birthrates, “natural” marriage, and the family.
The attack in Kraków led the news that day. Poland’s media presented it as clash of equally valid sides. The most popular news bulletin, Fakty of TVN, interviewed members of All-Polish Youth and presented their homophobic opinions uncritically. The daily Rzeczpospolita titled its front-page report “Eggs and stones in the name of the tradition,” and wrote: “Nation-supporters and participants of the March of Toleration—two competing marches—marched at the same time the streets of Kraków. ‘Fags out of Kraków,’ shouted the former. ‘Freedom, equality, toleration,’ replied the defenders of the rights of sexual minorities.” The Rzeczpospolita quoted another slur of the All-Polish Youth: “Pederasts and dykes, all Poland laughs at you.”
Poland is becoming a far-right country. The League of Polish Families is very influential in the Law and Justice Party, which won Poland’s parliamentary elections in 2005. The party is fiercely anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-modern, pro-”traditional family,” and pro-death penalty. The victorious party is headed by identical twins, Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the latter a closeted gay man. As mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski banned gay pride. During the last election campaign, on September 21, 2005, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that homosexuals must not be teachers. In an interview for the weekly Ozon, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that the “affirmation of homosexuality will lead civilization to fall. We can’t agree to it.” The Law and Justice Party said that gay parades were “cluttering up” the public space of Poland, “infesting it with weeds.”
Just after the new government was sworn in, on November 19, 2005, the police stormed the Parade of Equality in Poznan. Sixty-five gay and lesbian demonstrators were arrested. Deputy prime minister Ludwik Dorn affirmed his “recognition to the police” for their brutality toward a peaceful demonstration of lesbians and gays. That same day, the police cordoned off the hundreds of GLBT activists who had gathered in the heart of the city of Poznan. Skinheads of the All-Polish Youth swarmed around, pelted activists with eggs and shouting “Fags to gas” and “We’ll do to you what Hitler did to Jews.”
Because of his homosexuality, Polish authorities plan to expel Vladimir Sukhtsin, a Russian dissident who protested Russia’s military actions in Chechnya and took refuge in Warsaw. German daily Die Zeit commented: “The decision about the expulsion of Sukhtsin falls at a time when Polish society is manically busy with homosexuality. President Kaczynski conducted his election struggle at the cost of minorities; his poll results rose when he banned the gay parade with a pithy justification that it would make the city traffic difficult. He allowed the ‘Parade of Normality’ of skinheads to take place.”
Tomek Kitlinski and Pawel Leszkowicz are partners in life and in political activism in Poland.