Forest, boletuses and Polish conscience

Rev. Msgr. Ireneusz Skubis talks to Elzbieta Jakubiak, MP

Rev. Msgr. Ireneusz Skubis: – How can we understand the motto of the campaign of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the candidate of Law and Justice Party, ‘Poland is most important’?

Elzbieta Jakubiak: – For us these words were obvious although everyone will understand them slightly differently. The situation after the Smolensk crash, when almost all people thought of Poland, did not actually suggest any other choice. The motto characterises the candidate well and shows what Polish people feel today. We begin to understand the truth that one day you can lose everything and that without Poland, without what is most important, there is no sense to build the fates of individual families or our curriculum vitae. Poland unites us and despite differences in debates, despite all kinds of quarrels, we should always remember that we have our country which we should care about and which we should shape.

– Poland is our homeland. But each of us, Poles, is a different person, an individual, experiencing Polishness in his/her own way...

– Today I have talked about that to students from the Technical University in Czestochowa. I have paid attention to the fact that Poland has not worked out some special make, e.g. such a make for Germany is Volkswagen or Opel and for France – wine. Actually Poland’s make is the Polish people. I refer to what we feel many a time. Nobody regards that as pathetic and ridiculous because please notice: it seldom happens that some nation is without its land and survives; that some nation has no government, without authorities, and survives; that women live without husbands, and Poland has survived in her history, culture and language. Therefore, we should feel our worth, strength and possibilities that are in us, and we should always remember that we are an important element in the history of the world – here the biggest world movements were created. It is the place from which the transformation of Europe began and at the same time good was created here. I do not feel that our history is worse or that Poland is a worse place to live.
I remember that two years ago we were returning with our children from some foreign trip and after we had crossed the Polish border my kids began singing the Polish anthem standing at the back of the car. They realised that they returned home that they had missed very much. It was moving. But I always told them that we were most important here and that Poland was most important. I like watching people carrying national flags on national holidays, hanging flags on their houses, how the new beautiful houses are decorated with national flags on masts. Most friends coming to us from abroad envy us the country we live in. They say that we are like a forest where boletuses have grown – the number of houses with brown roofs is surprisingly big. We should remember such Poland and all those Poles that have written beautiful chapters of our history. Late President Lech Kaczynski always stressed that we had never declared a war against any country in Europe. And this is our great strength, which the Polish people in and outside of our country should have. But on the other hand, we cannot fall into some triumphalism because we have national vices, too. We have problems that we could have avoided if we had had the change to build our country longer.

– What elements do you think Jaroslaw Kaczynski will use to refer to the vision of Poland that late Lech Kaczynski had?

– I think that both always wanted just Poland – they always shared this characteristic. They used to say that the real, ideal justice was somewhere else, up in heaven, and here we could only have human justice. Sometimes I listened to their talks and I must say that they were a tandem in politics. One must have another person to talk to about politics. Each of us looks for a partner. They were partners although each was different and realised this vision of Poland in a slightly different way. But certainly the Poland of Jaroslaw Kaczynski will be a Poland that is aware of her place on earth, in Europe. One cannot keep repeating that Poland cannot afford anything or that we are unable to do anything. Jaroslaw Kaczynski is a man who thinks about politics a lot – since politics does not originate just like that, when you snap your fingers, but it originates from thinking, analysing what is real in the world. I mean care for international politics, the relationships between Poland and the United States, the relationship with Europe, respect for neighbours and at the same time partnership with every partner – these are important aims of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s programme. Since every country is sovereign and must be a partner and not a vassal country in political debates. However, nobody is a good politician and partner in politics if he does not feel the strength of his arguments – in my opinion this is that basis for every politician’s activities. Particular steps will be completed then – the world changes and one cannot use the means from the beginning of the year 2000. One should change the way of realisation, selecting other tools. However, one should realise the fundamental aims, including rooting Poland’s position and entering G-20 where key decisions will be taken in the future. In my opinion, the aim of Jaroslaw Kaczynski today, after Poland entered NATO and the EU, is to enter G-20.

– So how can you explain the determination of the struggle of the Citizens’ Platform against Law and Justice?

– It is a very difficult question because both the Citizens’ Platform and Law and Justice are post-solidarity parties. But within our post-solidarity group there were also basic differences concerning the concept of state. Our idea is a strong state but not because it wants to be an oppressor towards citizens but because it is to serve them well, protect them and make them feel secure. The concept of the Citizens’ Platform is to withdraw the state from life, weaken it, and put it aside. Please note all movements of the Citizens’ Platform today: passing competences to the local governments that we know cannot carry these weights. This year’s floods show that tasks given to lower levels disorganise the state, that we cannot build big water reservoirs without the help of the state and rivers cannot be controlled without determined activities of the state, of course we need full collaboration with the local authorities and respect for their decisions. The state must be efficient and well organised to serve its citizens. Our colleague, late Stanislaw Stasiak, organised a series of conferences entitled, ‘Do not be afraid of a strong state’ and I think that this is as if our message. As far as the language of politics is concerned it is a propaganda conception. To involve the most aggressive people in the main debate and kill true political debate with aggression, involve the opposition and make it helpless at this moment. Lack of respect for the opposition gives a bad testimony about the government because it can be suspected of an attempt to have authoritative rules. In my opinion one can see all these things better and the real problem is that it looks as if the government wants to have full power – absolute power. Such a conception is horrifying: a desire of absolute power in the 21st century?

– Is a national consent possible and if yes, under what conditions?

– It is possible when citizens get involved in it. People must impose such a consent, gather around the projects that they are interested in and do not leave public debate. Since 1989 Poland has not managed to build a society that would be truly involved in daily social-political life and this is the biggest problem. People wanted to live far from the problems that must be solved and politicians tried to turn attention of public opinion to ‘Big Brother’ or some trifles or virtual world, a world that does not exist. We do not conduct public debate. The media do not force such a debate and numerous social institutions are fettered in the budgets of the state, ministries and consequently, they are bound by these centres to finance them. Today there are no donors that would allow independence of non-governmental organisations. That’s why all attempts to debate are controlled by the government. And this is not right. The Western societies are organised better, they are more affluent, have non-governmental donors and that’s why they are free and can organise public life on their own principles. In Poland only a few have such sponsors and try to publish independent books, build public debate but their voices are too weak. Therefore, where can we take this care for the state and quality of such a public debate from? National consent is made difficult because we do not know our arguments. We only throw insults.

– Do you think that politicians realise the principles of the Gospel?

– I am one of the politicians. I do not want and cannot evaluate them. Each of them take that on his conscience. Each must strike his breast and examine his conscience.

– The Gospel says that the most important thing is love of God and your neighbour. Is this commandment, which obliges us as Christians, realised by politicians who claim to be Catholics, who participate in Mass and receive Holy Communion? You are a Catholic politician and where is the Gospel in your life?

– It seems to me that such settlements can be conducted only individually. This is a question to each of us. I cannot give a general judgement. I can say that I really appreciate those who enter politics because they consider politics as activities for common good. It is a big challenge. But I can also say that I do not know any other social group that would be subject to such a fierce criticism in public life, whether on the level of local governments, central authorities or MPs. No other social groups experience this pressure. A machine has been created that deals with our private lives and with all of our steps. Public life so understood would make anyone not to be involved in politics and in five or ten years’ time there will be no professional politicians. Please remember that once the profession of politician was within 10-15 professions in Poland that people chose for their children. Today it occupies the last place in rankings and this is destructive for the state.

– So what do you think Polish conscience looks like?

– After those dramatic days for Poland I can say that all nations admire Polish people. Recently, I have talked to some Russians who come to the stone commemorating the tragedy in Smolensk, who were at the Polish embassy. They told me that they had not seen anything like that during the times of floods, crises, poverty and during their own tragedies. Those crowds in the streets, full of respect for one another, testify that Poles have enormously sensitive consciences, that they care for the fate of other people very much. Since the time of life of average Pole today is the time at work, time dedicated to build for generations. Actually one can say that only my generation will be the one that will inherit a house or a flat perhaps for the first time in Poland’s history to a large extent. Poles have sensitive consciences, tender and big ones, but they are subject to enormous pressure of the external world and must keep running to catch up with the world.

"Niedziela" 24/2010

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: