The word "Solidarity" carried so much magic because it expressed a quality Poles dreamed of: sticking together, supporting each other, not allowing Poland's enemies to drive Poles apart. Adam Michnik, Jewish, Lech Walesa, Catholic, intellectuals and workers, students and clerics, united in that magical time.
Otherwise, Poles are notorious, among Poles, for their lack of solidarity with each other.
I was told this joke in Poland, by a Pole, in Polish:
Tourists are in hell. Their guide explains that there is a devil in each cauldron full of sinners, percolating over flames, in order to keep sinners down near the hottest part of the pot.
"But there are no devils in some of these cauldrons," the tourists note.
"Those cauldrons are full of Poles," the tour guide explains. "They keep each other down."
The NYT reports that Poles in Poland are turning on each other. Excerpts:
“We have a beautiful face in tough times and during difficult moments, but in normal times, we are lost,” said Jan Oldakowski, an opposition member of the Parliament who was one of several members of the opposition Law and Justice Party to recently quit the party to form a more centrist coalition. “With freedom, Poles do not know how to cooperate with each other.” The political leadership is at war with itself. Personal attacks and insults are flying. Politicians have traded accusations of drug abuse, mental illness, collaborating with the Nazis and being agents of Moscow. They have said of one another that they would be better off dead.
“Poles always feel they need to have an enemy,” Urszula Slawinska, 38, said one day as she walked along a sidewalk in Warsaw, an average citizen, headed home, uninvolved in politics, yet keenly aware of what was happening around her. “Because of our history we define ourselves, to be Polish meant to protect our country. So now that we don’t have to protect ourselves, we still need to find an enemy.” ... “I am very pessimistic,” said the Rev. Maciej Zieba, a popular priest here. “It is a providential moment for Poland. The political life is awful. For me as a Catholic priest, it is not good, either.”
The former polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, who served for 10 years, said the best way to describe Poland today was with a short story: “A group of children say to a rabbi, ‘Please tell us in a few words what the situation is,’ ” and the rabbi answers, ‘Good.’ “The children say, ‘Perhaps you can use a few more words, and the rabbi responds, ‘Not good.’” The former president laughed, but then said that the story was not funny.
Full text of NYT article, Poland, Lacking External Enemies, Turns on Itself by Michael Slackman.
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Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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