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A tale of two Polands

Great article
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A tale of two Polands



From Warsaw Business Journal


Within the Polish electorate there exists a large pool of voters which, for most foreigners, is as fantastical as a chimera.



These voters cannot be found at banquets, in embassies, at business meetings, for example, or at conferences where the atmosphere is charged with intellectual debate. In such places, the foreigner encounters well-educated Poles, who have frequently travelled and worked abroad. After a few visits to Poland, the foreign traveller may then begin to ask him or herself the rhetorical question: how is it possible that a country with such knowledgeable, well-mannered citizens could be ruled by a coalition of nationalists and populists?

After every Polish election, sociologists' and pollsters' assessments are the same. The supporters of centrist, democratic and liberal parties are generally well-educated, have tolerant views on sexual mores and live in large cities or compose the social and business elite of smaller towns. By contrast, the electorate of the ruling coalition - the Kaczyńskis' Law and Justice (PiS), the nationalist League of Polish Families and the populist Samoobrona parties - mainly consists of the poorly educated, the fearful, those who are part of a welfare culture and are hostile to modernization.

The ghost of Poland past...

I realize that the latter group - backwards and shunning both intellectual and social development - can be a rich source for caricatures and jokes of the sort that have recently frequented the pages of the European press. But this is not all of Poland, it's only Poland B. For foreigners who don't know Polish history it is difficult to really understand that the divide between Poland A and Poland B has existed for centuries and is such a sensitive issue that it is not taught to Polish pupils in their history lessons. The Polish aristocracy and intelligentsia, the communist elites, writers, artists and others have, by and large, had to come to terms with the past. By contrast, the only social group which has not been forced to confront its past is that of the ruralites, which is perhaps part of why this group is loath to face the future.

Two years ago the parties of the ruling populist-nationalist coalition reached out to the villages and small towns, where residents view anything "untraditional" with distrust. These parties court voters who are tuned in to Radio Maryja, where the infamous Father Rydzyk evangelizes against the power of the 'Jewish lobby' and intellectual propaganda, spreads superstition and promulgates his own intolerant brand of Catholicism. Meanwhile, the Kaczyński twins' party contemptuously refers to any intelligent opposition as the 'the pseudo-educated' and the League of Polish Families stirs anti-German sentiment.

...and the hope of Poland future

In spite of all this, I'm more and more optimistic. The vast tide of money which Poland receives from the European Union is washing over the Polish countryside and its small towns, helping to connect it to the rest of the world. It is the rural regions that will be the greatest beneficiaries of EU funds in the period 2007-2013 and no less than R11 billion will be allocated for the "development of human resources." Relatively modern infrastructure is stretching across the country and a network of NGOs is being created, working to educate and develop well-rounded individuals.

Over the last year I have watched PiS' popularity steadily erode; moreover, recent opinion polls indicate that neither Samoobrona nor the League of Polish Families would make it into Parliament if elections were held today. Independent media, the internet and modern technology have an ever-growing influence on the modernization of Poland B. In addition, those young people who have left for Western Europe to look for work bring tidings of a new world with them when they return to their villages on holiday, helping to teach their families that superstition and xenophobia are not pillars of every society. All in all, it seems the civilizational divide is slowly beginning to close. l

Joanna Wóycicka is the former head of the foreign section of the Życie Warszawy and Życie newspapers and the former head of the foreign department at the Polish Press Agency (PAP)

Re: A tale of two Polands

Michnikowszyzna is also a curse on Poland present.

By way of evidence, see any copy of Gazeta Wyborcza.
This was a newspaper set up largely with French trade union money for the purpose of providing balanced, unbiased news. It promptly became a private company and the mouthpiece for a self-serving commie 'with a human face'.

Anyone who, like Ryszard Bugaj, questioned GW's funding was ostracised by an immoral use of press power.

"Poland B" is right to snear at the snearing attitudes of some city-dwellers who have lost touch with reality and their own roots. City-dwellers who are quite happy to let their idle youth run amok in relatively well-funded schools, who prefer to go to restaurants than try to remember how to cook the simplest of meals from scratch, who have lost any semblance of faith in the utterly morally corrupt atmosphere of a church run by worthless bishops.

Poland B needs developing, not knocking. I wish a large dog turd would fall from the sky and land on the head of the twat who came up with the shameful expression "Poland B". "Poland A" on the other hand, needs to take stock and engage on a round of navel contemplation. Yes, incomes are rising and advances are being made, but the youth (and not so young) are being twisted by idiotic parents and media and social structures and adhesiveness are starting to fall apart due to increasing wealth and media pressures.

Marriage, childbearing, family, churchgoing, home-cooking: these are viewed as negative concepts by increasing numbers of urbanites.

To give you simple examples - I look around me and see large numbers of unmarried women in their late thirties (no time); I ask people what they eat in the evening and the answer is sandwiches (no time). And you want "Poland B" to sign up for this without asking any questions?

And who's going to feed Poland? A whole load of media executives or, perhaps, pen-pushers like myself? After many years of over-production of grain in Europe we're entering into a period of rising grain prices - and that's without growing grain for "biofuel". Sometimes we will need to rely on "Poland B".

I support neither PiSS nor POO - I find both sides hideous for various reasons. But don't resort to moronic insults borne out of ignorance - especialy when proclaiming your own intellectual superiority.

Re: A tale of two Polands

... moronic insults borne out of ignorance - especialy when proclaiming your own intellectual superiority.

Agreed, however, the writer of the article does make some valid points. But - "... young people who have left for Western Europe to look for work bring tidings of a new world with them when they return to their villages on holiday, helping to teach their families that superstition and xenophobia are not pillars of every society. All in all, it seems the civilizational divide is slowly beginning to close." - that's just too much !!!

Re: A tale of two Polands

"Over the last year I have watched PiS' popularity steadily erode"


Also complete nonsense.

In my view stratch the surface of most Poles (city or country dweller) and you have a potential PiS / LPR voter. Poland is a land peopled by simple peasants. Some might be a generation or two removed, live in a city, wear a suit, drive a modern car, and live in a big house or apartment on credit, but this makes no difference to the majority. Their outlook and thinking is the same.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Joanna Wóycicka - just looked her up. She's a trendy, pushing wimmin's education. No agenda there, honest injun'.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Don’t be a jackass Hans. She illustrates, and I have said it before, that Polish small town/countryside is a different planet. You live in one, hence your views are so warped.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Well, MikeC, I've lived in both urban and rural Poland and I agree with him.

Re: A tale of two Polands

The differences between urban and rural Poland are only surface level.

Re: A tale of two Polands

And what I'm saying is that "Poland A" intellectuals like that writer is a dangerous buffoon with a dangerous agenda of turning all wimmin into fat, Western-style men-haters.
I'm saying that both "sides" have warped ideas, and I would say that non-Poles have difficulty unravelling this bizarre state of affairs.
I can't say I agree with all-out traditionalism and xenophobia (PiS plus the fascists and RM bishops), but neither can I agree with the anti-society mob (trendy intellectuals and anyone who bashes the very existence of Polish society out of a self-proclaimed desire to do away with its various iniquities).
They're both wrong - and we're asked to choose between two lunatic fringes.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Yes, but these pseudo-intellectuals are a tiny, tiny minority.

Re: A tale of two Polands

It's the cities in Poland that are full of communist-era tower blocks, excrement in the lifts and spit on the floors.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Mike's point is probably that there are more educated Poles as a percentage of the population living in cities. Not that all city dwellers are refined.

Re: A tale of two Polands

lol not this debate again..."no but yes but no but yes but......"

it's all relative...

Re: A tale of two Polands

City people are boorish in a developed fashion; country folk dispense with the pretense. As the country folk are, at least on this one level, more true I tend to respect them more.

Personally, I had found that most overtures of courtesy and respect are reciprocated in the country. In the city; not so much.

Re: A tale of two Polands

You can't say anything on that score for sure without sweeping generalisations.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"She illustrates, and I have said it before, that Polish small town/countryside is a different planet. You live in one, hence your views are so warped. "

To be precise - my main home is actually in the center of Berlin. My Polish home is in a small tourist-centered town. So I think I know plenty about both city and country .

Some Poles in cities pretend to be 'sophisticated'. Most fail miserably. This is why generally speaking, Poles are basically the same wherever they live. Simple people. On the whole, honest and hard-working, but no great intellectuals or sophisticates.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"City people are boorish in a developed fashion; country folk dispense with the pretense. As the country folk are, at least on this one level, more true I tend to respect them more.

Personally, I had found that most overtures of courtesy and respect are reciprocated in the country. In the city; not so much. "


This I agree with.

Re: A tale of two Polands

I think the author’s point was that there is an enormous gap between Polish cities and the countryside. There always was but now since most urban areas are becoming more and more European the differences out in the country are exacerbated. They’re cultural and Polish country folk feel their way of life is under assault. By country folk I mean people that live off the land, not those who live ‘out in the country’ and commute to work.
Consider that majority of the people living in Polish countryside have never been outside of their birthplace fifty mile radius.

This is where PiS and the Rydzyks of the world saw an opportunity and capitalized on it. The fact that most Poles living in cities are a generation or two out of the country explains why they appeal to them as well. Not to mention religion.


As far as being ‘sophisticated’, etc – some are. Most aren’t. Same as anywhere.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"Some Poles in cities pretend to be 'sophisticated'. Most fail miserably."

How does this manifest itself?

Re: A tale of two Polands

Probably Polish versions of the Bucket woman in that BBC comedy.

Re: A tale of two Polands

I don't think there is anyone quite like hyacinth in Polish society. Polish society in Poland is weird because of communism. The communists glorified peasantry and tried to remove layers of class. It's impossible to compare countries that did not go through that with countries that did.

The real Polish class system ended up in places like the UK, especially in London. I grew up within a totally snob ridden community. I hated all that, the formality of it all and so judgemental. Very starchy and so at odds with the UK culture in the 70s. I had a weird childhood come to think of it. Patriotism overload....

Re: A tale of two Polands

“On the whole, honest and hard-working, but no great intellectuals or sophisticates.”

Hans, I’ll assume there is a missing adjective modifying the “no”, because as an absolute statement it is demonstrably false. Poland has produced more Nobel Laureates than most countries in Europe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_laureates_by_country

Re: A tale of two Polands

No, there is no adjective missing!

Your Nobel defense is without worth. Lech Walesa, that says it all! The award is a joke. Besides as a percentage of population size, Poland fares only average, at best.

An example:

United Kingdom - 110 - population 60 million
Poland - 17 - population 39 million

The Polish list

Wisława Szymborska, Literature, 1996
Józef Rotblat*, (then Polish Russia), Peace, 1995
Shimon Peres*, (then Poland, now Belarus), Peace, 1994
Georges Charpak*, (Poland-France) Physics, 1992
Lech Wałęsa, Peace, 1983
Roald Hoffmann*, (Poland-US) Chemistry, 1981
Czesław Miłosz, Literature, 1980
Menachem Begin*, (then Polish Russia, now Belarus), Peace, 1978
Isaac Bashevis Singer*, (then Polish Russia), Literature, 1978
Andrzej W. Schally, (then Poland, now Lithuania), Physiology or Medicine, 1977
Tadeus Reichstein*, (Poland-Switzerland) Physiology or Medicine, 1950
Isidor Isaac Rabi, Physics 1944
Władysław Reymont, (then Polish Russia), Literature, 1924
Marie Skłodowska-Curie, (from Warsaw, then Polish Russia), Physics, 1903 and Chemistry, 1911
Albert Abraham Michelson, Physics 1907
Henryk Sienkiewicz, (then Polish Russia), Literature, 1905
Marie Skłodowska-Curie, (from Warsaw, then Polish Russia), Physics, 1903 and Chemistry, 1911

As can be seen the 17 figure is rather generous. Take out the Jews, Americans and French and what do you have

So, I'll rephrase, Poles are not known for their intellect. Quite the reverse.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"So, I'll rephrase, Poles are not known for their intellect. Quite the reverse. "

Let's rephrase again...to : Poles are not "recognised" in the international arena for their intellect for reasons which are historical, social, cultural etc. Intelligence within any given population follows the "bell shaped" curve. The right environment must be present for genius to flourish.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Ok, I can agree with that .

The weather is better today, so I'm going out for a drive in the country. I have some old clothes to distribute to my favorite villagers.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Comparing Poland to other Western European countries in disingenuous. No other country has been in a perpetual state of war and occupation for the last two hundred years. No other European country saw its citizens slaughtered on such scale during World War II.

And let’s not forget that it was the German Nazis and Russian Bolsheviks who orchestrated targeted killings of educated Poles, who were the elite of their society in all fields – science, business, politics, military, etc.

What would Poland look like today if its best and brightest weren’t killed, persecuted, or forced to emigrate?

What Ania said makes a lot of sense.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Surely most of them would alreay be dead by now anyway? Aren't any new clever Poles being born?

Only teasing Really

Re: A tale of two Polands

"Some Poles in cities pretend to be 'sophisticated'. Most fail miserably."

You know, Hans, when you're talking like this, I'm seriously tempted to shed my miserably failed mask of sophistication and knock out your front teeth with my peasantly miserable boot.

Does you Polish wife read your comments about Poles' miserably unsophisticated nature?

Re: A tale of two Polands

I wouldn't bother JB. Opinions like this reflect blatant ignorance on the part of the holder and a wanton lack of sophistication. Why bother taking them seriously? The little green men are probably sitting there thinking how primitive to the "sophisticated" of us are anyway.

Re: A tale of two Polands

What Hans repeats over and over are german nazi propaganda bits from the 30’s.

Germans are followers. They’re not exactly known for original thinking.

Ironically he thinks he’s Mr. Sophisticated. His comments suggest otherwise.

Re: A tale of two Polands

He is entitled to his opinion and based on the vast majority of Poles I come across in England, I would agree.

Re: A tale of two Polands

of course you would. shocker.

Re: A tale of two Polands

BTW - Hurling insults on internet forum is not "having opinion".

Re: A tale of two Polands

I bought the Guardian newspaper today. Shocker .

Re: A tale of two Polands

Definition of opinion:

a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty; "my opinion differs from yours"; "what are your thoughts on Poland?"

Re: A tale of two Polands

Hey look Angela, if Poland emptied out its villages and sent them to England I can understand where you’re coming from. I guess it all depends on the caliber of people you know.

Re: A tale of two Polands

I'm sure there are sophisticated Poles. But most Poles in England, are not, that's for sure.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Thank you Hyacinth..

Re: A tale of two Polands

>>Germans are followers. They’re not exactly known for original thinking.

>>BTW - Hurling insults on internet forum is not "having opinion".


Looks like Hans is not the only one hurling insults.

How about Einstein or Heisenberg? About as original as I gets I would say. And let's not forget that the US space program was firmly based on original German thinking.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Yep…so was Aushwitz.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"How about Einstein or Heisenberg?"

I agree. But they were Jewish so according to Hans' earlier post, they dont qualify.

Quoting:

"As can be seen the 17 figure is rather generous. Take out the Jews, Americans and French and what do you have"

Re: A tale of two Polands

Ok, fair enough

Re: A tale of two Polands

Its not a matter of others 'having an opinion' as Angela said, its that mentality of perceiving people a certain way that was ubiquitous in Nazi Germany. That’s insulting to everyone.

In my opinion

Re: A tale of two Polands

The Poles themselves never saw Jews as Polish. Neither did the Jews see themselves as Polish.

Re: A tale of two Polands

and Heisenberg wasn't Jewish. He was a German Protestant.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"The Poles themselves never saw Jews as Polish. Neither did the Jews see themselves as Polish."

The assimilated Jews did. In villages and small towns they didn't.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"The Poles themselves never saw Jews as Polish. Neither did the Jews see themselves as Polish. "

Interesting comment seeing as Jews have lived in Poland for pretty much as long as the country has existed...do the Jews currently living in Poland see themselves as Jewish or Polish then?

Re: A tale of two Polands

"The Poles themselves never saw Jews as Polish. Neither did the Jews see themselves as Polish."

Ever heard of Szpilman? Mickiewicz? Pilsudski's wife was Jewish. One of many examples..

Jews had their own culture, but they lived in Poland for hundreds of years. Until German Nazis that is. Saying they did not regard themselevs as Poles is like saying Protestants in Poland didnt consider themselves Polish.

Re: A tale of two Polands

assimilation into a Catholic society makes you a Catholic and not a Jew. Many Jews converted to Catholism rather than face dicrimination in Poland.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"The assimilated Jews did. In villages and small towns they didn't. "

Correct. There were many towns/villages in Eastern Poland/Kresy region that were 100% Jewish.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"Saying they did not regard themselevs as Poles"

That's exactly what I'm saying.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Try reading this:-

Lost Landscapes: In Search of the Jews of Poland. Written by a Polish woman called Agata Tuszynska.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"assimilation into a Catholic society makes you a Catholic and not a Jew. Many Jews converted to Catholism rather than face dicrimination in Poland. "

Nonsense. Jews were heavily persecuted in occupied Poland beginning in late 18th century by Prussian and Tsarist authorities.

Prior to that, Polish kings granted privileges to Jewish communities. Hence most of them flocked to Poland from all over Europe. All religious minorities enjoyed protection under the Polish Crown.

Jewish pogroms started to take place in Germany well before the 15th century

Re: A tale of two Polands

Or better this one:-

A Family History of Fear by the same author.

About the absolute need to hide Jewishness in pre-war Poland. Her mother did exactly that.

Re: A tale of two Polands

“That's exactly what I'm saying.”

Right. So according to your logic Catholicsm was a prerequisite to becoming Polish.

Wrong again.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Do some reading and then we can discuss the matter further. bashevis Singer is a good place to start.

Re: A tale of two Polands

try using this as reference:

http://www.ushmm.org/research/center/presentations/features/details/2005-12-07/view_transcript.php

Re: A tale of two Polands

"Do some reading and then we can discuss the matter further."

Yea okay. I've read Singer, but thanks.

Expand your horizons a bit.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"About the absolute need to hide Jewishness in pre-war Poland."

Unfortuantely, that's the way things were in Europe. Talk about the absolute need to get out of Germany if you happened to be a Jew during that time.

Talk to Poles who actually lived in pre-war Poland. They can give you a more accurate picture.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"Talk to Poles who actually lived in pre-war Poland. They can give you a more accurate picture. "

I have. My girlfriend's grandmother. She hates both Germans and Jews equally. 100% Polish and 92 years old.

Re: A tale of two Polands

So have I. All four of my grandparents. Two honored in Yad Vashem.

What you describe existed as well, sadly.

But it was far from universal. Actually antisemtism in Poland reached record heights during the 1920's, spread by the likes of Roman Dmowski (who also happened to be a Russian Duma Deputy) and his crew.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"ssimilation into a Catholic society makes you a Catholic and not a Jew. Many Jews converted to Catholism rather than face dicrimination in Poland. "

Very much yes, and some still prefer not to reveal their ethnic identity, but many converted to protestantism. Before the war there were 1800 active Anglicans in Warsaw, many of them of Jewish background. Very few were alive by 1945.

Kazimierz Wielki aside, Poland was never a paradise for Jews.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Hatred of Jews didn't just exist in the past. This lady is still alive and very active. There are many just like her. Radio Maria is the most popular radio station in Poland. LPR members of the ruling coalition.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Very much yes, and some still prefer not to reveal their ethnic identity, but many converted to protestantism. Before the war there were 1800 active Anglicans in Warsaw, many of them of Jewish background. Very few were alive by 1945.

Kazimierz Wielki aside, Poland was never a paradise for Jews.

--

Exactly.

Re: A tale of two Polands

That last post was mine, quoting Neil, rather than involuntary identity theft! Weird - maybe the computer did it?

Re: A tale of two Polands

hmmm my question was about Jews living in Poland now...do they see themselves as Polish or not?

Re: A tale of two Polands

Are there Jews in Poland now? A few, maybe.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Yes there are quite a few Angela. Not millions but tens of thousands.

Re: A tale of two Polands

estimates vary by the way, between a few thousand and over twenty thousand...

Re: A tale of two Polands

Don’t be a jackass Hans. She illustrates, and I have said it before, that Polish small town/countryside is a different planet. You live in one, hence your views are so warped.

Mike C, I agree with you on this one, Hans has some strange views sometimes, What he is saying was the popular view of the German people in the late 30's, one has to visit a German town in the country to understand how primitive the German people are, Give me a Polish country town anytime

Re: A tale of two Polands

As someone who works at a university in Germany, I can tell you that it's the 'popular view' among the majority of Germans now

I don't agree with your point about German villages. They're quite different to Polish ones just a few kilometres across the border.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"I don't agree with your point about German villages. They're quite different to Polish ones just a few kilometres across the border. "

How many of those German villages have you been to? And how many Polish villages have you been to?

It is evident from some of these comments that most of these experts on Poland know absolutely nothing about the country.

Re: A tale of two Polands

"They're quite different to Polish ones just a few kilometres across the border."

Yes but Mike aren't Polish villages near the German border rather deprived compared other parts of Poland? I'm just going by what I have read on here.

I'm sure both German and Polish villagers can be equally small minded. This is the mentality of people who live in closed communities with little contact with or interest in the outside world.

I love London!

Re: A tale of two Polands

It's obvious that some members have only ever spent time in hotels and restaurants in the centre of either Warsaw or Krakow.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Actually I spend most of my time in Poland in a small town.

Re: A tale of two Polands

Did I refer to you?

My girl comes from a small village in Poland. Whatever Polish Americans would like to think, villagers in Poland are not a rural idyll. Think sink estates with cows and chickens.

Re: A tale of two Polands

You said "some members" which is non specific in either including or omitting me.

Re: A tale of two Polands

The rule is no personal insults, I think. Did you think the cap fitted?

Re: A tale of two Polands

"The cap fitted"??? eh, what?

Re: A tale of two Polands

If the cap fits, wear it. It's an idiom .

Re: A tale of two Polands

I understand the expression thanks, just not the context you are trying to relate it to.

Re: A tale of two Polands

You believed the comment about people not having any idea about what real life in Polish villages is, was about you. You thought the cap (the comment) was your size (was directed at you). Does that make any sense

Re: A tale of two Polands

“As someone who works at a university in Germany, I can tell you that it's the 'popular view' among the majority of Germans now”

I don’t think anyone in Poland is losing sleep over that. And sadly, it goes to show Germany hasn't changed all that much since the 1930's.

Re: A tale of two Polands

It's quite clear that a typical Polish village cannot be compared with a typical German one. Maybe in 20 years things will be different.

Re: A tale of two Polands

I thought the original point made related to behaviour and mentality of Germans in villages rather than comparing the architecture and flowers etc. "one has to visit a German town in the country to understand how primitive the German people are, Give me a Polish country town anytime ". I am of course assuming this comment relates to primitive attitudes because that is what the thread was about.

Is German village mentality superior to Polish village mentality? Are Germans more open minded and less xenophobic for example?

Personally as I have said I believe there is no difference. Both are likely to be small minded due to insulation from the big world. Small town thinking and all that....

Of course you can carry on with the evolved debate about chickens and personal vs impersonal insults.

Re: A tale of two Polands

A Polish village is quite different to a western European one in almost every respect. Just one example - every Polish village still has someone called a soltys (head peasant). I cannot imagine this in any western country.

Re: A tale of two Polands

The translation for Soltys in my Polish English dictionary is "Village administrator". It does not have the meaning of head peasant

What would head peasant be hmmm... Główny chłop??? Pan Dyrektor Chłopów???

Re: A tale of two Polands

Great article
------------------------------------------

A tale of two Polands



From Warsaw Business Journal


Within the Polish electorate there exists a large pool of voters which, for most foreigners, is as fantastical as a chimera.



These voters cannot be found at banquets, in embassies, at business meetings, for example, or at conferences where the atmosphere is charged with intellectual debate. In such places, the foreigner encounters well-educated Poles, who have frequently travelled and worked abroad. After a few visits to Poland, the foreign traveller may then begin to ask him or herself the rhetorical question: how is it possible that a country with such knowledgeable, well-mannered citizens could be ruled by a coalition of nationalists and populists?

After every Polish election, sociologists' and pollsters' assessments are the same. The supporters of centrist, democratic and liberal parties are generally well-educated, have tolerant views on sexual mores and live in large cities or compose the social and business elite of smaller towns. By contrast, the electorate of the ruling coalition - the Kaczyńskis' Law and Justice (PiS), the nationalist League of Polish Families and the populist Samoobrona parties - mainly consists of the poorly educated, the fearful, those who are part of a welfare culture and are hostile to modernization.

The ghost of Poland past...

I realize that the latter group - backwards and shunning both intellectual and social development - can be a rich source for caricatures and jokes of the sort that have recently frequented the pages of the European press. But this is not all of Poland, it's only Poland B. For foreigners who don't know Polish history it is difficult to really understand that the divide between Poland A and Poland B has existed for centuries and is such a sensitive issue that it is not taught to Polish pupils in their history lessons. The Polish aristocracy and intelligentsia, the communist elites, writers, artists and others have, by and large, had to come to terms with the past. By contrast, the only social group which has not been forced to confront its past is that of the ruralites, which is perhaps part of why this group is loath to face the future.

Two years ago the parties of the ruling populist-nationalist coalition reached out to the villages and small towns, where residents view anything "untraditional" with distrust. These parties court voters who are tuned in to Radio Maryja, where the infamous Father Rydzyk evangelizes against the power of the 'Jewish lobby' and intellectual propaganda, spreads superstition and promulgates his own intolerant brand of Catholicism. Meanwhile, the Kaczyński twins' party contemptuously refers to any intelligent opposition as the 'the pseudo-educated' and the League of Polish Families stirs anti-German sentiment.

...and the hope of Poland future

In spite of all this, I'm more and more optimistic. The vast tide of money which Poland receives from the European Union is washing over the Polish countryside and its small towns, helping to connect it to the rest of the world. It is the rural regions that will be the greatest beneficiaries of EU funds in the period 2007-2013 and no less than R11 billion will be allocated for the "development of human resources." Relatively modern infrastructure is stretching across the country and a network of NGOs is being created, working to educate and develop well-rounded individuals.

Over the last year I have watched PiS' popularity steadily erode; moreover, recent opinion polls indicate that neither Samoobrona nor the League of Polish Families would make it into Parliament if elections were held today. Independent media, the internet and modern technology have an ever-growing influence on the modernization of Poland B. In addition, those young people who have left for Western Europe to look for work bring tidings of a new world with them when they return to their villages on holiday, helping to teach their families that superstition and xenophobia are not pillars of every society. All in all, it seems the civilizational divide is slowly beginning to close. l

Joanna Wóycicka is the former head of the foreign section of the Życie Warszawy and Życie newspapers and the former head of the foreign department at the Polish Press Agency (PAP)

Re: A tale of two Polands

Joanna Wóycicka is a right-on wimmin's rights extremist ... which brings the whole thing full circle.