A gay rights march planned to take place in Krakow on October 31st was cancelled when President Kaczynski announced his intention to attend Cracovian celebrations for the 90th anniversary of Poland’s independence.
The gathering – organised by the International Lesbian & Gay Culture Network (ILGCN) in Poland – was called to commemorate the birthday of King Wladyslaw III, a Polish medieval king whom some historians believe was a homosexual.
Known in Poland as Wladys?aw Warnelczyk, the boy-king ascended the throne at the age of 10 and was killed a decade later, at the age of 20, whilst trying to fend off the the advance of the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Varna. He was unmarried and childless, thus leading to accusations of his homosexuality.
The organisers of the march in remembrance of the king planned to congregate at the Florianska Gate and aimed to finish their march by placing a flower by his symbolic grave; a sarcophagus in Wawel Cathedral.
Although initially given the go-ahead, even with the Independence Day celebrations being held on the same day, President Kaczynski’s planned attendance has raised the profile of the originally low-key event – leading the city authorities to cancel the march.
Speaking to Gazeta Wyborcza in late October, Lukasz Palucki of ILGCN said, “Today the world considers us [Poles] as homophobic, but history shows that in the Middle Ages [Poland was] the only country where homosexuals were not punished by death for their sexual orientation.”
“We ask the city [authorities] to nominate a different route, one that will not collide with the route of the president,” he said. “We cannot move the event to another day. How can you move the King’s birthday?”
In response, Tadeusz Czarny, director of Kraków?s Department of Social Affairs, said, “Celebrations to commemorate the liberation of Krakow are scheduled for the same time [as the march] on the Rynek, and with the participation of President Kaczynski, I had to refuse because of the conflict.”
Gay rights campaigners, however, are not convinced, and suspect that it was President Kaczynski’s personal intervention that led to the decision not to allow the march.
Szymon Niemiec, prominent gay rights activist and founder of Gay Pride in Poland, sees the ban as another violation of the Constitution of Poland by President Kaczynski.
He told the Krakow Post, “Polish democracy is facing a crisis… the pretext of Kaczynski’s arrival is not only ridiculous, but also dangerous. It suggests two things; firstly, that the president sees himself as superior to Polish citizens, and secondly, it creates the impression that Lech Kaczynski is prepared to divert his duties when serving office – and thus Poland – in order to make the lives of homosexuals difficult.”
He adds, “In my opinion, this shows deep hidden complexes, even chronic homophobia.”
President Kaczynski’s views on homosexuality have been widely publicised; during his tenure as Mayor of Warsaw he banned gay pride marches in 2004 and 2005. The latter, known as the Parade of Equality, went ahead despite the ban and was met by resistance from nearly 200 youths, who threw stones and eggs at the demonstrators.
A week later, the anti-gay protesters – believed to be members of the radical right-wing organisation All-Polish Youth ? organised a counter demonstration called the “Parade of Normality,” with Kaczynski’s consent, at which they chanted incendiary homophobic slogans.
During a state visit to Ireland in February 2007, Kaczynski, after being confronted by angry forum delegates because of his anti-gay stance, told the audience, “I am not a homophobe,” adding that if homosexuality were to be freely promoted, “the human race would disappear.”
The rumours of the King’s homosexuality stem from the writings of Jan Dlugosz, a medieval Polish chronicler, but many Polish historians are split on the sexual orientation of the monarch. Nevertheless, Lukasz Palucki believes that, ultimately, the truth is irrelevant.
“In all honesty, we’ll never find out with certainty whether Warnelczyk was gay,” he admits, “but that’s not the point. This was meant to be a symbolic celebration, showing Krakow to be a city of diversity.”