Poland – longs to belong.

This summer, Warsaw was centre-stage for the mother of all gay prides. It´s all a bit surreal if you think back to only a few years ago, when that same parade was marred by incident.

When in power, the Kaczynski twins ruled the republic of Poland by means of a severely conservative agenda, endorsed by – our best friends – the Catholic Church. That mixture proved a sinister cocktail, which was seriously lacking the vital ingredient of human rights. The gay pride that took place in Warsaw was disrupted on several occasions by right-wing extremist demonstrators who were freely able to vent their hate and aggression due to lack of a police force.

That was a few years back. Meanwhile, much has happened. The economic crisis has also left an indelible mark on Poland, whereby nationalism and allegiance to the church suddenly reached its limits with the Polish population. A single Hosti is not enough to feed an entire family, whereas strong ties with the more liberal-minded – and economically more potent – Western Europe seemed like a preferable alternative to that predicament. Add to that a plane crash on the 10th of April, in which virtually the entire government perished during a trip to an anniversary ceremony in the Russian forest of Katyn. Following the disaster, Jaroslaw Kaczynski tried to succeed his late brother as President of Poland, but was beaten in the elections by Bronislaw Komorowski, a more moderate president whose key election promise was a close collaboration with Western Europe.

Parochial Poland gets the middle finger

The airline tragedy notwithstanding, you´d have thought that the ensuing events would have been positive for gays in Poland. Some polish gay rights organisations are of a different opinion though:

“Previously, we knew the monster we were up against. Now the enemy is disguised as a benefactor, which is much more difficult to fight.”

For Westerners, it´s an almost incomprehensible victim status, but if you´ve been watching your back all your life, then it´s naturally rather difficult to just let go of that.

The platform for all their heartache was Europride 2010, which this time was being held in the Polish capitol Warsaw. The Europride (the mother of all prides in Europe) hit Poland for good reason. The organisers of the Polish gay pride were sick and tired of all the oppression, and demanded their right to ‘the freedom of peaceful assembly’ from the EU. The EU duly acknowledged this, and started exerting pressure on the Polish government. From that moment on, the gay pride in Warsaw could no longer be legally forbidden by the mayor, who is also officially obliged to offer protection to all those taking part in the parade. The Polish gays let out a cry of victory when marching past a handful of anti-gay demonstrators on the 17th of July – where the mayor incidentally was conspicuously absent throughout.

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