Are Poles racist?

Muslims and Africans are the most frequent targets of racially motivated attacks. Anti-German sentiment is also playing a role.

Three students from Turkey and Bulgaria were cursed at by young men on a tram in Bydgoszcz, a city of nearly a half-million people in northern Poland. They were told to get out of the country because Poland is for Poles.

Instances like these are on the rise. Foreign exchange students in Toruń, a student city also in Poland’s north, have come under increasing threat. A young Turk was recently cursed at and badly beaten. Two other students were forced to their knees in a bar at the behest of the owner. They had to “apologize” for being Muslim and not Christian. Patrons encircled the students — not to help but to laugh at their humiliating position.

Polen Protest gegen Aufnahme von Flüchtlingen (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Guz)

‘Guardian angels’ for exchange students

“I am shocked by the lynch atmosphere of this incident,” said Ewa Walusiak-Bednarek, a spokeswoman for the University in Torun. “We have had exchange students for 10 years and this has never happened. Now it’s happened twice this year.”

The University of 20,000 students has a tradition of pairing exchange students with their Polish peers, who are known as guardian angels, to “help students from abroad get used to everyday life and understand the country better,” Walusiak-Bednarek said. “The number of Polish guardian angels has increased from 30 to 110 since these attacks. Nearly all of our 130 foreign exchange students are able to have their own.”

Elsewhere, a Nigerian doctoral candidate at the University of Warsaw suffered injuries after he was attacked in the street. A Polish professor and a visiting German researcher were verbally and physically assaulted while conversing on a Warsaw tram in German. The attack made headlines, but there was no condemnation made by public officials. The attacker was released after three months.

Polen Rassismus FLüchtlinge (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Pleul)

Racially motivated attacks 10 times higher than in 2000

Anna Tatar keeps track of racist attacks around Poland in her “brown book” for the foundation, which is called “Never Again.” She recorded 400 cases in 2009-2010 and 600 two years later. The count rose to 850 in 2013, according to Police statistics, and it more than doubled by 2017.

“We have observed a further rise since summer 2015, higher than the official numbers suggest,” she told DW. The racially charged atmosphere stems from the refugee debate during the parliamentary election campaign in fall 2015, she said. Poland has not taken in any refugees, but the numbers entering Europe overall has incensed many Poles, causing it to become a major campaign issue.

“The media have painted the refugees with one, broad brush,” Tatar said.

The number of recorded attacks since 2000 has gone up by a factor of 10, although the percentage of foreigners living in Poland is low in comparison to other European countries. Jews and Roma were once the main targets of violence. Now it is Muslims and Africans.

Attacks are rarely investigated – there were over 100 cases in 2017 – due to “limited harm to society.” There are exceptions, such as a man in Wrocław who was sentenced to 10 months in prison without parole for burning a puppet of a Jew in the city’s main square in fall 2015.

Polen Rassismus Nazi-Schmierereien auf jüdischem Friedhof (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Supernak)

Tolerance for hate

Government officials have been noticeably quiet following racially motivated attacks. At times, it plays down the racial motivations that may be behind them. A right-wing demonstration in Białystok last April called to “hang Jews.” The public prosecutor concluded the incident was repugnant, but not racist.

The organization behind the demonstration, National Radical Camp, is one of the largest far-right movements in Poland. Its symbol – a hand holding a knife reminiscent of a swastika – is included in a police handbook about explicitly racist symbols. The Interior Ministry pulled the book from circulation after MP Adam Andruszkiewicz, known for his close connections to the far-right scene, criticized the conflation of the symbol with the swastika and those of the Ku Klux Klan, also included in the handbook.

A government council on combating discrimination was established in 2013 to analyze racially motivated attacks and regularly publish its findings, but it was abolished in 2016. So far, nothing has taken its place and a concrete strategy to counter the rise of xenophobia remains to be seen.

On a personal level, being an expat in Poland of Spanish origin, I haven’t been targeted at all. But, I have heard many of my African friends have. What do you think?

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  1. These words below for Polish people who is performing such ugly behaves, semi-educated supportive troll jerks and institutions who promotes this actions. I love Poland and enjoy to live with together with all other Polish people beside of those mentioned above. Truth hurts! Therefore instead of making aggressive comment read once more and think twice please.

    Yes, they are. Many of Poles are racist. Poland for Polish even you hear from government officers or hospital workers which is financially funded by your taxes. This sentence is even not counts as a racist even.

    Does Polish officials promote racist actions? Yes. Their silence and careless behave encourage racist creatures to proceed a step further. I never abused physically but many times verbally. Each time I answered back. If you do not show your reaction they process for step two which is usually physical. They are not brave enough to fight one to one. Keep in mind.

    What might be outcomes of this behaviors? They gather attention by Islamic hate groups and I don’t think it will bring any positive.

    Why Poles are racist? Because they are the worst soldiers you can find in European history. It is not something bad, every nation has their own skill. Once they were capable to rule east part of Europe thanks to their Lithuanian allies even not alone. Their unique army proud was defeating Ottomans in Vienna by Jan Sobieski. When you are a member of a nation who was beaten in all wars, you have complex physiologically of being weak and loser. Polish national anthem’s first sentence worth thousands words to explain it. ‘Poland is not yet succumbed’ So now when they are performing such behaves to Islamic immigrants, they want to prove that they are not week anymore. I personally know this country since 2012 when there was no Islamophobia even people were proud to host Tatars on east Poland for many years; target was LGBT people. They were systematically attacking them. In Zambrow city they gather many gays in a garage and kept them for night then open doors and throw them rocks. Previously center of hate was Jewish people. But attacking minor groups with crowd makes you even less and cheap. If you continue in that way, you will be called as jackals of Europe very soon.

    What Polish better do for get rid of this complex? Stop whining about past and what they had done to you. This is war, winner has never mercy. Understand that there will be no classic war in Europe anymore. Modern war is economic. Instead of being most ineffective 8th population in the world(OECD 2018), work as hard as you can for your country. Perform same quality of labor performance as you do in UK or Germany. Get along with expats. Many of them works in outsourcing companies with their native languages. Expat performed jobs paid by customers to Polish companies in euro or dollars. In this way we are helping you to have stronger economy and currency due to increasing euro/dollar supply. They are not stealing your job as long as you can speak Arabic, Turkish, Italian, Spanish etc.

    What makes Islamic immigrants antipathetic for Poles? Simple, life style and they have right. When you immigrate a country, you have to integrate and can’t push your culture to home country. If expat misses his life style in motherland, he is better to be back and live there. As expat in society, you have to adjust your behaves in accordance with society.

    Why Poles has no right to hate Turkish people? As a Turkish I have to make a special parenthesis for this case. Poles and Turks had fight directly only twice for geo-strategic reasons. Everybody turn their back to you in your hard times but we did not.

    1) When Lithuanian-Polish empire was collapsed, administrative and intellectual group of Poland applied to Ottoman Empire as asylum seeker(Yes you heard true, you were asylum seekers as Syrians today). Because otherwise they might go prison of Prussians and your asylum denied by many other European countries due to political issues. We welcomed you and give you land to create your community in middle of Istanbul and still we have Polish populations lives there. Even in our hardest times, we ensure your security and peace in this district. Nobody attacked there yet and never will be. Because we know what is being in need and being human. And those words which written by Adam Mickiewicz about Polish nationalism, inspires nowadays racist(because their brain allows them to miss-understand and limited) do you know where was it written? In Turkey in Istanbul with a Turkish pen, ink and paper. Today for respect on his name we have museum of Adam Mickiewicz. I do not expect your appreciation but at least respect some.

    2) Till you get your lands back after First World War, in every international politic meeting held in Ottoman borders, we open your table as Poland even such country does not exists. Many of Russian and German diplomats were asked about Polish diplomats that why they still did not arrive to this meetings sarcastically. Now you have Wilson’s statues every corner, the man gave you what you supposed to have. But there is even no street named by some Turkish man. Szkoda.

    3) When German invade countries they were asking for their embassies in other lands. You have one of the biggest embassy in Ankara with perfect garden in center of Ankara neighbor with Czech and Slovak embassy. As we all know very well Poland was the first invaded and they requested your embassy. We gave all other embassies requested by Germans even Czech and Slovak ones but not Polish. Many times German wrote letters and even threat us to invade but we never gave your embassy and said that our friendship is longer than any war. When all will be finished, we will not be able to explain this behave to our Polish friends. And look our Polish friends now. They beat us in bars and tried to make us christian with their alcohol smell mouths. Stop shaming God and Jesus. Stop shaming humankind.

    If you are full of your anger please direct it to right channels. History is written and we all know who did good and bad for Poland. Do not seek your opponents far, they are still your neighbors…

Thanks for reading. Spread the word :)

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