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‘A forest of red flags’: a warning from Poland

  • Opinion

By Weronika Krupa, BA International Relations and Chinese

CW: Abortion

Protesting is the daily bread of Polish citizens. Practised for generations, once against the communist regime, today against a fascist government. We know what it feels like to lose – to lose your rights, your freedoms, your pride, or your hope. Even the youngest of us bear the burden of national trauma, fed to us in history lessons ever since childhood. When politicians want to suppress us, control us, divide us, we should be prepared.

‘The fanatic and corrupt government officially took charge of our bodies and left us hurt and devastated. For a country that seemed to be on the verge of modernity, I can’t help but wonder what went wrong.’

On 22 October 2020, the Polish government delegalised abortion for almost all cases. The scraps of rights we have left make up a very pathetic consolation. The fanatic and corrupt government officially took charge of our bodies and left us hurt and devastated. 

For a country that seemed to be on the verge of embracing modernity, I can’t help but wonder what went wrong. They say Poland is a woman, and I believed she was promising and ambitious. A woman that was ready to step up and claim what’s hers, to love, to cherish and protect. So what went wrong? I spoke to Magda, one of the activists from Dziewuchy London, a feminist collective fighting for the protection of reproductive rights run by the Polish diaspora in the UK.

She told me, ‘I remember one day when I was representing Dziewuchy at the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre. It was February 2017. I remember, back then I was saying that we should pay attention to the situation in Poland because it doesn’t matter to Poles solely. It’s a dangerous process for Europe as a whole. I think my point back then was that the attack on women’s rights goes hand in hand with those narratives of hate, which were fully present back then. I think at that time I compared this with Brexit. We need to be extremely careful about this, and how it will affect politics within the EU.’

I asked her what advice she had for people who live in so-called progressive countries.

‘First, I would pay attention to the new laws and legislations implemented during some sort of crisis, in moments of turmoil or chaos. You need to react to those tiny changes despite the circumstances. Secondly, we need to recognise the connections between the individual struggles of different groups and stand in solidarity with each other. When we fight for women’s rights we should also fight for migrants rights, racial justice, and against the discrimination of LGBT+ communities. We need to stay in this together, in solidarity. I think the strikes in Poland are so popular right now because it is not only about women’s rights, it’s about so much more – democracy, rule of law, free media altogether.’

After my conversation with Magda, I felt fearful for what could be coming. We took it all for granted. We were the post-communist dream of a better future. For better or worse, change happens gradually. But before we wake up in Gilead or in Poland or without any sort of rights, we will always walk through a forest, signs popping up like mushrooms or flowers, until it’s just a forest of red flags.

Photo Caption: Protesters in Poland (Credit: Reuters).

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