Every year on the 11th of November I sit scrolling on my phone and watch with disdain the “Independence March” going through the streets of Warsaw. What in other countries is an occasion to celebrate, be happy and shoot out fireworks, for Polish people has become, over the years, a moment for shouting, demolishing the streets, and infighting. Nonetheless, it is exactly what pops up in my mind whenever I hear the word “Patriot”. But let us reiterate. Who is the contemporary Polish Patriot?
How Conservatism Has Become the New Patriotism
Poland, for me, has always been a country of multiple faiths, ethnicities, and languages – stripped from all of that during the Second World War. Now it’s mostly Catholicism and looking over our shoulder. Constantly. Watching the government TV always gives the impression that the enemy never quite left after 1945 and is waiting to attack again, in the meantime trying to bury our white, proud, religious “Polishness”. The generational trauma we feel is something we must come to terms with, but for now it seems like it is taking over.
It is not enough that the attack from abroad can come any day now – political parties have made it their mission to show everyone that their opponents are not Polish enough – that they work for Germany, Russia, or maybe someone else entirely – to destroy our otherwise perfect country. This narrative has been going on for a while, but it has become louder over the past years. Nowadays, accusing someone of working against Poland’s best interest is the perfect weapon. And the biggest insult. The more we isolate ourselves from the outer world, the better. The EU, the immigrants, sometimes even the Vatican. Everyone is waiting for our downfall.
Because of this narrative it comes as no surprise that people calling themselves Patriots represent views almost exactly opposite to views of those who fought for our independence. They are aggressive, loud, and often so tangled up in their Christianity, they forget just what it is about. They are ready to rid Poland of everyone and anyone who does not fit the canvas of a righteous Pole. Sounds just a bit too familiar.
The “Most Polish” Award
Because of that modern isolationism, young people more often than ever feel like there is something amazing waiting abroad. And they leave. It is something I am guilty of too, writing this piece from the opposite side of the Globe. There is, I believe, something inherently sad about our personal patriotism. Most of us have been raised to love our Motherland - I certainly have - and now watching its transformation I wonder whether this is the time to give up on the visions of coming back, or maybe come back as soon as possible and try to salvage whatever is left.
The truth is, we do not get less or more rights to call ourselves Polish just because we were born white, straight, or Catholic. Every person that identifies as Polish and calls Poland their home should have equal right to do so and playing the game of “I am more Polish than you are” has, if anything, caused more harm than good. After we come to terms with that, it might be the time to try and accept that Poles do not own the exclusive rights to Poland and are not alone responsible for rebuilding it after all the atrocities of the 20th century. It took collective effort and I believe one of the biggest challenges for us is to accept that no one walks alone through this world. Not even us. Not even Poland.
It is all bittersweet, and quite scary, how Poland shrinks within herself, allowing us less and less space to breathe, at the same time blaming us for trying to escape. At which point does the fear for personal wellbeing outweigh the pride of being Polish we were born with? Is it when you see the first video of the righteous patriots beating someone weaker? Is it when your friends from abroad ask you, jokingly (or maybe not?), whether you have electricity? Or is it when you look from a distance and finally realise that it might take a miracle to fix the problems we have created for ourselves?
A student of Computer Science and Mathematics at Queen Mary University of London and soon also at National Taiwan University. Privately a co-author of an Instagram account about Asian Literature and an absolute amateur of film photography.