Poland, one of the hosts of this year’s European Football Championship, has been booming thanks to a rigorous modernization program. But not everyone is benefiting from the economic success. With rents climbing and the elderly complaining about lower pensions, resentment is on the rise … //
… God, Honor, Country:
- Barbara Przybyz says she joined the Solidarity movement in 1980 just after its creation. “I had hoped then that it would be possible to kick out the communists and lead a dignified life,” she says. Instead, in her view, the current liberal regime is just like the communist one: it despises ordinary people.
- Many differences remain between the Solidarity movement and its western European counterparts. Many Polish union members are conservative voters. At a rally in front of the parliament, many demonstrators stop to pray. One man carries a wooden cross bearing the image of the late Polish pope, John Paul II. Written on it are the words: “God, Honor, Country.” The German metalworkers’ union, IG Metall, would consider such a gesture futile.
- “The pope shows us the way,” says another man, who believes that Poland needs to shift back to traditional values, such as honesty, which he believes have been lost in the new Poland. The man does not wish to be identified, but he reveals that he works in a factory in Wroclaw that manufactures refrigerators for an American company.
- “I have to wait another two years until I can retire,” he says. Then he says he can expect a pension of 800 zlotys a month — or roughly €200.
- “I don’t see why I have to get such a low pension just because the communists ruined the economy,” he says, gesturing in the air with his hands. He’s wearing a beige baseball cap, and he has put a white Solidarity vest on over his track-suit jacket.
- And to make matters worse, he says, the liberal government now wants his children to work longer– so that, some day, they can also receive a paltry pension like his. “The ordinary people are the losers,” he says. “The liberalization of politics has left them worse off.”
Fighting for Tenants’ Rights: … //
… A Stark Contrast:
- Soon, there could be more. The government is planning a new law that would make it easier to forcibly evict tenants in formerly state-owned buildings once they are transferred back to their original owners.
- After World War II, the Polish state dispossessed many buildings from their original owners and installed communal apartment buildings on the sites instead. For years, many of the original owners have been coming forward wanting their property back. The city of Warsaw’s policy is to transfer them to the original owners as well as to private investors.
- “If the new owner raises rents, the old tenants end up homeless,” says Jasinki. He says the city only offers the poorest of the poor another apartment, and the rest have to consider whether or not to stay. One reason, he says, is that the city has not provided enough social housing for years. “The idea of social housing has become perverted,” Jasinki argrily says.
- Here in Praga, the conflicts generated by the country’s societal change are readily apparent. In between dilapidated old buildings, new apartments for the well-to-do middle class keep popping up.
- Meanwhile, directly opposite the derelict building housing the tenants’ committee, a glass palace is being erected. The building is home to a business newspaper named Puls Biznesu, or “The Pulse of Business.”
High-Stakes Referendum: Ireland’s Test Vote on Merkel’s Fiscal Pact, on Spiegel Online International, by Carsten Volkery in London, May 30, 2012;
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