Poland’s lesbians and gays are expecting the worst from the country’s ultra-homophobic new prime minister, Jaroslav Kaczynski, whose identical twin brother, the equally homophobic Lech, is the country’s president.
“This political situation in Poland is going to be especially worse for gays,” said Lukasz Palucki, a prominent gay activist who was one of the organizers of Warsaw’s Gay Pride March, of the new prime minister‘s appointment last month. “The Terrible Twins are crazy. They don’t care about international opinion and are capable of anything,” Palucki told Gay City News.
Both Kaczynskis are noted for their long history of political gay-bashing. When he was mayor of Warsaw, President Lech Kaczynski twice banned the city’s Gay Pride March.
The Kaczynski brothers’ hard-right, nationalist Law and Justice Party took power in elections last October, and brought into their coalition government the notoriously homophobic League of Polish Families, a Catholic extremist party whose leader, Roman Giertych, was appointed minister of education by the Kaczynskis. In June, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the new Polish regime’s homophobia, and specifically denounced the League, whose leaders “incite people to hatred and violence” against gay people.
A June editorial in The New York Times, “Poland’s Bigoted Government,” argued that the Kaczynskis’ regime “seems intent on violating the rights of minority groups, beginning with an attack on gays.”
In his inaugural address as prime minister two weeks ago, Jaroslav Kaczynski went out of his way to deliver a homophobic thrust against gay marriage, saying, “We won’t let ourselves say that black is white,” adding, “We are going to protect this foundation of social life [marriage]” and “defend the family from attacks guided from outside the country,” a reference to the European Union’s guarantees of full civil and human rights for gays and to the EuroParliament’s condemnation.
In the latest anti-gay actions by the Kaczynskis’ government, in mid-July the National Radio and Television Council, which supervises and controls the electronic media, ordered a commercial television network to cancel its planned broadcast of “Gay Army.” This Danish-produced reality show, which was a hit when broadcast in Scandinavia, followed a group of gay men sent to a boot camp for training so that, at the end of the program, they could win a fight with real soldiers. The network could have been fined one million zlotys (roughly $325,000) if it had proceeded with the broadcast contrary to the orders of the government-run council.
At the end of July, a Polish public television network, TV Opole, abruptly cancelled its planned broadcast of the fifth year of an important music festival because, said the network’s director, Jacek Kruczkowski, the festival organizers “had hidden the fact that the theme of this edition of the festival was ‘tolerance,’” and, he added, “Tolerance can be dangerous, because in its name gays want to distribute in the schools brochures on the techniques of homosexual love.”
The threat of gays invading the public schools is frequently utilized by the Polish right—especially by Education Minister Giertych—even though no brochures of this type have ever been proposed for distribution in the schools.
Jaroslav Kaczynski is considered the real strategist and dominant figure in his political partnership with his (younger by five minutes) brother. Jaroslav was previously the ham-fisted de facto political boss of Poland’s Parliament following the brothers’ electoral victory, and had earlier proposed a law banning homosexuals from teaching, passage of which is expected to be a priority now that he is prime minister.
Jaroslav, 56, is a bachelor who still lives with his mother in a house filled with an extraordinarily large number of cats—and The Times of London reported after his most recent appointment that “the views of the new prime minister and the President are so similar that they often finish each other’s sentences. The only way to distinguish them is by a small mole to the left of Lech Kaczynski’s nose and the cat hairs on Jaroslav Kaczynski’s clothes.”
Rumors have circulated for years that Jaroslav is a closeted homosexual.
“The rumors became public a few years ago, when Lech Walesa [the former Polish president, to whom the Kaczynski brothers had served as political counselors when he was head of the Solidarity movement] said, in an interview on the Polish public TV network TVP1, that the Kaczynskis had come to his birthday party, and that ‘Lech came with his wife and Jaroslav came with his husband,’” said Palucki. The interview in which Walesa made this comment was reprinted in the country’s most prestigious daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, on October 29, 1999.
Earlier this year, the Polish press published excerpts from a confidential report on Jaroslav that had been prepared by the country’s former Communist regime’s secret police, saying that Jaroslav had never dated women and implying that he was a homosexual. Jaroslav was forced to comment publicly on this report, and called it a “fabrication.” But, said Palucki, “Everybody in Poland knows these stories, and [Jaroslav’s sexuality] is an open secret in the media, even though the press won’t come right out and say clearly, ‘Jaroslav, you are a homophobic gay closet case.’”
One of the first moves of Prime Minister Kaczynski’s new government will be passage of a law forbidding TV from running ads for condoms, the use of which is opposed by the Catholic Church, which has its strongest European beachhead in Poland. The proposed new law is being prepared by two government officials with responsibilities for family affairs—Vice Minister for Labor Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska and presidential counselor Hanna Wujkowska. Both women claim that advertising for condoms could have a “bad influence” on the development of Poland’s youth.
If the law is passed, as expected, the already-feeble effort to prevent the rapidly rising number of new HIV infections in Poland will become even more difficult. The Web site GayPoland.pl reported on July 19 that new official figures show an alarming rise of 30 percent in the number of new infections in Poland, and said that the government’s miniscule AIDS prevention budget is only big enough “to print merely several thousand handouts, admits the Polish Ministry of Health.” The report noted that both the Kaczynskis’ Law and Justice Party and their governing coalition partner the League of Polish Families “strongly believe that HIV is an exclusive problem of the gay population and disregard it completely—to the detriment of all Poles, gay or straight.”
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at http://dir