Poland in Brief: November

Rector in Bacchanalian Dilemma

The rector of the Jagiellonian University is struggling to come up with a name for his first pressing of wine. Five years ago, the university boldly went where few Poles have gone before, launching a vineyard in the Krakow region. The rector is so keen to find the right name for his bottles that he has offered a prize (a case of UJ plonk) for the bright spark who can come up with the right title. Meanwhile, pioneering vintner Marek Jarosz protests that it’s a myth that Poles are wine novices. He points out that vineyards were plentiful in medieval Poland, and that once there were even vines on the slopes of Wawel Hill. Mr Jarosz is currently leading a campaign to replant the vines on Wawel.


Shooting Daisy

“Daisy, daisy, you’re on my blacklist, you’ll regret it, I’m going to finish you…” President Kaczynski’s alleged tirade against star reporter Monika Olejnik sparked a wave of gossip in Poland’s press. The outburst came after an episode of popular current affairs programme “Kropka nad i.” However, the following day the president switched to gallantry and sent a dozen red roses to the presenter, who now says that she has put the matter behind her.


Sex and the Cité

A mysterious “Polish mistress” is one of the characters to have emerged in France’s biggest intelligence leak in recent years. The revelations, which span the years 1998 to 2004, were leaked to Le Point magazine last month in what’s been billed as “a voyage under the skirts of the Republic.” Besides tales of “coke and sex mad” ministers, the scoop reveals that French Intelligence kept files on some 2.5 million citizens. The info was gleaned from notebooks seized from Yves Bertrand, former head of the RG, France’s secret police. President Sarkozy believes that Bertrand was involved in a smear campaign against him, and he is currently suing the ex-spy mogul for invasion of privacy.


“Unchivalrous” Polish Photographer Lands Fine
Robin Das

A Polish man has been labelled “unchivalrous” by a Scottish sheriff and slapped with a fine, for photographing a woman who was feeling ill outside a bar.

Sebastian Przygodzki took a snap of Rebecca Smith last August as she sat outside the Omni Centre Bar in Edinburgh, where she had been drinking with friends. Przygodzki, who is from Krakow but lives in the Scottish capital, had spent the day photographing performers at the city’s yearly arts festival. Przygodzki took the photo of Smith as she was sitting with her head between her legs to get some fresh air. She then became upset and her friends called the police, who seized the Pole’s camera and charged him with a breach of the peace. Przygodzki pleaded guilty to the charge last month, claiming an “error of judgment” and was fined 100 pounds.

At the court, Sheriff Kenneth Hogg described Przygodski’s actions as exceptionally unchivalrous and that the matter was made worse because Smith was a woman. He stated: “The lady concerned was entitled to her privacy and not to have a passing stranger take a photograph. I’m going to impose a fine to remind him chivalry is not dead and when somebody is in distress you leave them to it.”

In his defence, Przygodzki’s lawyer, Andy Houston, said that he took the photo of Smith because he saw it as “another view of Edinburgh,” adding: “It was a spontaneous act and entirely inappropriate” and that his client was sorry for the matter, which was his first offence.

The incident has raised questions about privacy in public places and the “unchivalrous” angle of several websites. Some contributors suggested that the sheriff’s comments infer that if a woman had photographed a man the case wouldn’t have happened and therefore its base could be seen as sexist.


German Compensation Claims Denied
Wojciech Galon

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Poland owes no compensation to ethnic Germans who lost homes on its territory during World War II.

The case was filed by representatives of the Prussian Trust, a private group representing 23 Germans who demanded compensation for inhumane treatment and loss of property when borders were redrawn at the end of the war.

The court, however, dismissed their argument, saying that claims of inhumane treatment could not be blamed on Polish negligence, as the country had no governmental control of its land between January and April 1945, when the expulsions took place.

The court also underlined that it has no jurisdiction on the issue, as the alleged offences took place before either country had signed the European Convention on Human Rights. Poland ratified the treaty in 1994.

The compensation claims have caused friction between the two countries since being filed in 2006, although the German government has refused to endorse them.

The long awaited verdict was welcomed by German and Polish leaders, who were eager to underline that there were no outstanding property issues from the Second World War between the two countries.

Polish media quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying that the judgement confirmed Germany’s stance that the complaints were groundless. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk added, “The case was decisively finalised through a solution that was expected by both governments.”

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