Back on 25 April, while waiting for my BlaBla Car driver to pick me up for my week-long holiday, I saw this poster:
As you can see from the imagery, I was intrigued by what was shown: the German Chancellor and TIME Magazine Person of the Year recipient Angela Merkel, haloed by the EU Flag and with an heiling Hitler arm stuck to her body. Above, reads the slogan POL EXIT (Polish Exit). And Polska Bez Unii Europejskiej (Poland without the European Union). Below, symbols of immigration, Islam, the Euro, and a fourth thing I could not quite decipher were cancelled out.
If you have been at least half aware of the world around you, these kind of sentiments are abound. While BREXIT (British Exit), or the British exit from the EU, is more discussed in America, many other countries such as Poland are experiencing similar anti-EU feelings. In their point of view, the EU is crippling the European economy and open immigration – thanks to the open borders policy of the EU and the Schengen Area agreement – is diluting the “European-ness” of Europe.
After returning from my holiday tour of Frankfurt, Germany; Bratislava; and Vienna, I was poised to see this protest in action. Via YouTube and VICE News, I had seen glimpses of such kinds of rallies – and this was likely to be like the rest: right-leaning individuals composed of soccer hooligans and hardened nationalists. Many of these kinds of rallies, such as those in Germany, often turn violent.
On 1 May, I was poised to see and experience something similar.
Alas, the rally I saw was a bit of a “disappointment.” I say this naively. Had it actually turned violent, I would not be saying the same thing. Nevertheless, the rally itself was a cultural experience for me. The cast of characters present at the rally was a sight in itself.
You can watch the relatively tame rally in the video below.
The marchers are touting the inherent truth of the Bible, all the while spouting hate and ignorance. Seems they need to read the Good Book a little more carefully?
This small rally represents only a very small fraction of the views of Poles today. By the end of the week, a counter rally took place in Warsaw to promote Poland’s place in the EU and European values. Here, 240,000 people marched in the capital city, making it one of the largest rallies in Poland since the collapse of communist rule in 1989. (EDIT: Some have notified me that media outlets had revised this number, down to as low as 55,000.)
As it is often said, though, it only takes a few bad apples to rot the whole batch (or bushel?) Those who marched through Wrocław on 1 May in no way resemble the Poles that I know.
I would like to thank Paweł, one of my English students, for labouring as my translator.
And, apparently, this happened later in the march. I did not witness this with my own eyes, as my roommate and I had gone off in search of a pub: http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/339881/far-right-pole-burns-poster-of-mayor-wearing-kippah/