“As any state, we want to look after our interests and present our own position. Certain countries might wish for the comeback of Polish politicians who used to nod in agreement and acquiesce to their orders. However, Poland’s new government puts a stop to the era of acquiescence of Poland,” said Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Jan Dziedziczak.
wPolityce.pl: In Beata Szydło’s government you serve as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. One of your duties is to deal with the Polonia community and Poles abroad. Immense numbers of Poles live all over the world. It would suggest that because of a large and well established Polonia abroad, Poland should be well regarded, and yet it often falls victim to numerous deceitful attacks. Why?
Jan Dziedziczak, PIS MP and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs: In order to understand this phenomenon, we need to take a closer look at the status of Poles abroad and how Poland is viewed by foreign states. Estimates differ, but at present there are between 10 to 20 million of Poles living abroad, which indicates migration on a huge scale. On one hand, it is a sad state of affairs that Poles have difficulties to live in Poland and are not a part of their homeland. On the other hand, though, it creates a chance for Poland. By using a right approach towards Poles abroad, Poland as a country can gain a lot.
So far, we’ve not gained a lot.
We need to change the attitude towards Polonia and Poles abroad. So far, these people were regarded as a problem and treated as such. As a country, we steered clear from them. We want to change that, we want the Polonia and Poles abroad to become our partners. Polish people should view Polonia and Poles abroad as compatriots, as our people who happen to live abroad. They have different reasons for living abroad, but they should know that Poland does not forget about them.
How should our consideration for them manifest itself?
Our institutions need to support Polish organizations and Polish memorial sites, as well as look after Polish people’s education and schooling. Developing and supporting Polish culture and tradition, looking after Polish education abroad – all these factors should reinforce the Polish identity in the Polonia and Poles abroad. We face big challenges in the East, where schools and community centers need to be established. Poland’s sense of responsibility should be the strongest towards Poles living in the East. Initiatives that aim to unite Poles, such as Polish press, should be supported, as they bring Poles together, maintain Polish culture and national traditions, as well as keep them up to date about their homeland.
You talk about care that Poland should give to Polish people abroad. However, this is not enough to stop foreign media and foreign politicians from insulting our country.
Poland should care for Poles abroad, but, as in any partnership, they should give something back. We ask them to act and help to create a positive image of Poland, we ask them to promote our country. We are aware that many Poles already work in this area, but if every single Pole abroad felt responsible to act for the benefit of our country, the result would be immense. It is important to react to any lies about our country,
whether they are historical lies or regard present political situation.
Do you mean demonstrations or protests? How would such actions look like?
I appeal to the Polonia to get involve in a variety of social activities. I urge people to react to false publications by protesting in writing, by taking part in academic debates, and joining discussion or book clubs, by addressing media, and by boycotting consumer institutions that slander or sneer at Poland.
Could such social defiance be effective?
If the entire Polonia stops buying products from a manufacturer that slanders Poland, I think it would cause the right effect. We also need political lobbying for matters significant for Polish national interests, e.g. just like the American Polonia did when Poland was to join NATO. After all, Poles abroad often vote in their countries of residence, and those countries make decisions that could be harmful or favorable to Polish interests. Thus, Poles should stay active. Politicians should be aware that making decisions that are harmful
to Poland will not earn them support of Polonia, instead will put a lot of pressure on them.
How can this be achieved?
The Polonia must act in a coordinated manner. It is extremely important for Poland. This is a real fight for
Polish national interests abroad. This is real patriotism.
The question is whether a country that people escape from to for example wash dishes in the UK could ever be taken seriously? Maybe no one will think or care about Polish people?
It saddens me that so many educated and vigorous people, who could be building Poland and its power, who could be living here and raising their families here, would rather leave to wash the dishes abroad. It is not an easy matter and we need to remember that they found themselves in extremely difficult circumstances at the time of PO-PSL coalition government. I respect people who were forced to stay abroad, or who were forced to flee the country for political reasons during the Soviet occupation. They paid a high price for their decision and they were victims of circumstances that forced them to leave their homeland. Despite all this, these Poles still stay connected to Poland.
However, can we really compare those two types of circumstances that made people migrate? In the last years, Poles have been leaving because of poverty. Should they?
I am not in favor of economic emigration. It is a fact that many Poles left in the hope of making a better life for themselves. I urge them to come back.
They have nothing to come back to. They will face unemployment and low wages.
I realize that they won’t earn the same money as in the West. I understand that what happened within the last eight years, e.g. on the employment market, has not been optimistic. However, we are changing the country. We ask for patience, and we appeal to them to come back and help us. Migration experts claim that migrants reach their critical point in the fifth year of being abroad. After that it is hard to come back. Therefore, I encourage migrants to come back. I encourage those who consider migrating to remain in Poland. Patriotism today means working for the country and building it. I have full respect for those who left, because they had to. It is the so-called “new Polonia” that is a challenge for Poland. We need to bring as many of them back as possible. It is not easy, as many of them started families abroad and have children. Nevertheless, we want them to live in their homeland. We want to give them a chance and encourage them to return.
What if they don’t want to?
In such a case we need to focus on next generations, so that young Poles born abroad remain Polish and retain connected with Poland. Polish culture needs to be sustained.
Migration is a diverse matter. There is the “old” migration based on historical circumstances. Those migrants are deeply rooted in their new reality. On the other hand, we have the “new” migration due to economic reasons. Does the government care for all migrants to come back, or is the approach different towards those two types of migration?
We encourage everyone to return. Poland is home to us all and each and every Pole should find a place here to live. Although the PiS (Polish Law and Justice Party) has only just taken over, we already have planned and began our actions. The first decision by MSZ (Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs) was to bring back home our compatriots from Mariupol and Ukrainian territories under pro-Russian separatists’ control. It is almost a symbolic event that sends a message: “Compatriots, Poland remembers you, and wherever you are, you can rely on Poland in your hardship. Poland is your home.”
It is a manifestation of loyalty.
It was very impressive. Other residents living on those territories witnessed Poland, a serious leader of the Central Europe, ready to use its transport to aid its citizens. They witnessed the agility of Polish diplomacy and services. They witnessed Polish military aircrafts and their swift action. In addition, we have already begun another important action, which is the amendment of the Pole’s Card Act. Having the Pole’s Card simplifies a process of entering Poland and confirms Polish identity. The Pole’s Card holders should be free to enter Poland and live here. Their stay here is much more beneficial for Poland than the wave of economic
immigrants currently overflowing the borders of the European Union.
The Polish transformation has been taking place over the last 26 years. Why did the Poles from the East not return til now? You said the Polonia was regarded as a problem. Was that the reason?
There are many reasons, one of them being Polish State’s virtual non-existence, as Minister Sienkiewicz expressed it in the well-known recorded conversation.
Does Poland exist?
It is not as bad as presented by Minister Sienkiewicz, but the problem is visible. Poland lacks controllability, and that affected Poles abroad. This is not all. There is also the lack of determination from the Polish government. We need determination and political will. The PiS cares about Polish identity, even if an individual is not officially a Polish citizen. This might have been what the previous government was lacking.
Or could this be the case of not being able to afford it? Poland still might not be able to afford it…
There is no point beating about the bush – money is scarce and it will remain scarce. However, we need to look at priorities. There will never be enough money to do everything. Politics is about making choices, prioritizing, and working around those priorities. Looking in the same direction as a community is what matters to us.
You mentioned the problems Poles living in the East face, but there are also many problems in the West. We don’t need to look far – Germans have been against acknowledging Polish minorities for years. Is there any chance of a breakthrough?
We will be firm about this matter. This year we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Polish-German Treaty. I think that attitudes towards the Polish minority in Germany will affect the commemoration of the anniversary. Poland is the first country to oppose the Nazi Germany and the first country to say “stop” to Adolf Hitler. It is unacceptable that Herman Göring’s decisions should still be valid in Germany.
You are delving into remote past.
We need to remember that Poles lost their status in Germany during Adolf Hitler’s reign, and due to Herman Göring’s decision. It is incomprehensible that such decision still are in effect, in particular because it is one of the very few ones that were made in the times of Nazi Germany and that remain valid til today. It is, of course, Germany’s business how they interpret the legacy of Nazi Germany, but I trust that the 25th anniversary of the Polish-German Treaty will navigate Germans towards rejection of the Nazi Germany’s decision regarding Poles. We need to remember that Polish taxpayers subsidize German minorities in our country and Poland implements the European standards regarding German minorities. It is baffling that German taxpayers, who are much more affluent than Polish, don’t even have a part of such obligation towards Poles in Germany, and all that is due to the fact that Berlin would not revoke Herman Göring’s decision.
I remember a well-known statement by Władysław Bartoszewski, who said that Poland is just like an ugly maiden looking for a husband, thus it should be at least nice. Can Poland make demands within the international politics?
The Polish minority’s situation in Germany is a very good example of consequences of such course of thought and action. We want Poland to be a normal country, which, just like any other country, leads its own foreign policy and looks after its own interests. We enjoy being a member of the European Union and NATO. However, as any other state, we have our priorities that we need to implement and present them in a collegial manner on the EU and NATO scene.
Poland has been a victim to fierce criticism from foreign press and media since at least the parliamentary election. Should it bother us?
I was Jarosław Kaczyński’s government’s spokesperson, so I know how media work both in Poland and abroad. This mass attack on Poland and Polish government has numerous reasons. It is a political battle. Polish government puts a stop to the era of acquiescence and proposes partnership with the European Community instead. As mentioned before, just like any state, we need to look after our own interests and have our own say. Certain countries might wish for the comeback of Polish politicians who used to nod in agreement and acquiesce to their orders. However, it will not happen, because the nation decided otherwise. We also need to be aware that press attacking us remains loyal to its countries. Those countries retain control over their press, without involving foreign capital.
Does it matter whether media capital is domestic or foreign?
The press we are discussing remains loyal to its countries of origin. Those media prefer the Polish government to be submissive, rather than stand up and fight for its interests and partnerships. This explains the mass attack on Poland.
Therefore, press is just means of political battle and it should not bother us?
It is like perpetuum mobile, a mechanism of denouncing one’s own country. Foreign press has internal informants in Poland, who report to them in the name of some primitive domestic competition between political parties. It is not a good practice to achieve party goals by denouncing the Home Country to foreigners. But it happens, and our enemies willingly take advantage of it. Certain Polish press also takes advantage of it, and gives rise to disputes in Poland. Whether it is determined by cynicism or inferiority complex, it is not a normal situation.
Why do you think so?
I have not noticed the German media involved in promoting what Polish media write and say about Germany.
Could it be because Poland is too small?
It is not the case. We are a country of 40 million people, half the size of Germany. Proportionally, Poland is the same kind of neighbor to Germany that Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania combined are to us. It is a myth that Poland is insignificant to Germany. We are a big and serious state, but despite that, Germany does not focus on the Polish media.
Germany does not have an inferiority complex towards Poland, and Germans are aware that press should look after its own country’s interests. German public pay attention to German press, not foreign press.
News and criticism from foreign press should receive a reaction from Polish public media?
Public media must be honest about what happens in Poland. It is their duty, and it is their duty to report real events. It is important when we hear opinions, e.g. that there is no democracy in Poland. Just under two months ago, sovereign Poland unanimously decided what direction Poland should take. The fact that we put our declarations into practice is not an assassination on democracy. It is following the direction the Polish nation has just indicated. The media and Polish institutions abroad should promote this concept. The Polonia, Poles abroad and Polish press abroad also should actively promote it, as this means acting in the interests of Poland. It should be remembered that we are dealing with active groups which are hostile towards Poland.
You mentioned a mechanism denouncing own country to foreign states. However, did the PiS not do the same, when appealing to Brussels or the U.S. for help regarding the Smolensk crash?
Ministers Anna Fotyga and Antoni Macierewicz travellled to the U.S in search of explanation of the Smolensk tragedy. Seeking the truth is the right thing to do and it is very good that these steps were undertaken. Presenting the Smolensk crash as an unexplained, questionable case is not an action against Poland. It is important for the influential groups to be well informed about it and properly consider what happens behind the eastern NATO border. Poland’s security only benefits from such action.
But it looks similar. Polish politicians travel around the world and express opinions that Poland malfunctions.
It is completely different to travelling around Europe and, in the name of political competition, suggesting that there is no democracy in Poland. Everybody knows how the government was elected and that democracy exists in Poland. These are two separate matters, but maybe those who compare them are unable to understand that there are people who act for the sake of Poland. Caring to discover the truth about the Smolensk tragedy cannot be compared to lies about the lack of democracy in Poland.
Today, the PO (Polish Civic Platform Party) screams about the lack of democracy and threat to freedom, but only a year ago PiS politicians were saying the same things. It was PiS politicians that claimed there was a threat to democracy in Poland. Is it not hypocritical that you are now indignant about the PO’s claims?
Local elections of November 2014 were conducted in a scandalous and impermissible manner. It remains unclear why. Please note that the parliamentary and presidential elections were different because they were under public scrutiny. No one questions their course and outcome. However, it appeared that almost 18 percent of votes in the local elections were invalid. In this year’s elections only 2 percent of invalid votes were identified, and that proves the scale of the change. It is impossible to compare those elections and in
general the scales of violating democratic principles.
PiS began its office term with a strong impact and quick changes, which provoke resistance and dispute. Was it not all too strong, too quick?
We must change the country. Poland is in a disastrous situation. We could just maintain a nice image and do nothing else. This was exactly what has been happening for the last several years. We want to introduce fundamental changes. We are doing nothing wrong; we are just reforming the country. The backlash and agitation in the media is huge, because our decisions affect many shady interest groups, which were amassing profits under previous governments for the last 8, 26 or even 72 years, since around 1944. We have successfully put a stop to those pathological organizations, and the criticism we get is from them, feeling threatened. This is a positive sign and we will continue our work.
Interview by Stanislaw Zaryn