Perspectives on Poland: A call for greater panic and alarm

I can’t help feeling that we should be alarmed about a lot more, and more pressing, things than we are here in Poland. A large proportion of the population is becoming increasingly obsessed by the idea that Russia is out to get us. I think this is about as likely as a second Mongol invasion. The Russians have got bigger things to worry about that reconquering former satellite states with US troops stationed in them. Like, for example, inhuman radicals blowing themselves up in airports. The Russians aren’t looking west towards the eminently stable and predictable EU with fear and loathing, it’s the teeming and unaccountable Caucasus that keeps Putin awake at night.

It seems I am not alone in this belief. News.pl reports that ‘Smolensk fatigue’ has become so pronounced that 100,000 Facebook users signed up to the idea of “A day without Smolensk,” during which no mention of the Smolensk catastrophe or subsequent investigations would be allowed anywhere for any reason. This is about as likely to work as a “Day without 9/11” in 2002, or a perpetual-motion machine powered by magnets, but I sympathise with the motivation. Hasn’t this archaic Russophobia blinded us to a couple of real and imminent threats, namely radical Islamists and football hooliganism?

I make no apologies for conflating subjects that are regarded as a threat to world peace and a local inconvenience respectively. As far as I can see it matters not at all to your loved ones if you are stabbed in a street brawl or blown up by a random public transport suicide bomber.

The possibility of the first was shockingly confirmed in Krakow last month with the appalling killing of a 30-year-old family man in Kurdwanów. For me, it wasn’t the fact that multiple assailants chased down and hacked a man to death, as horrifying as that is, it was the fact that they felt able to do so in broad daylight in a quiet suburban street that is truly chilling. When gangs carry out their sordid business regardless of kids and mums with prams walking past, your city really has a problem. From where we stand now, waiting for EURO 2012 feels uncomfortably like waiting for a war to break out.

I find very little sympathy for my fear that Poland is a tempting target for extreme Islamists, but this doesn’t make me fear it any less. Poland has been actively involved in what we are apparently no longer calling the War on Terror from the very beginning, it is strongly linked with an internationally known Christian figurehead, John Paul II, and I doubt that its security forces are insurmountably competent. Speaking to Polska the Times recently, Krzysztof Liedl of Poland’s National Security Bureau warned that the average Pole does not take the threat of terrorism seriously enough, which could be a critical weakness given that plots and potential attacks are often foiled by observant citizens. We should be looking fearfully toward Russia because we can see there tragedies that might easily befall us, not because Russia is itself an imminent threat.

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