Letter to the European Commission
June 6, 2013
We would like to notify the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship about a very serious problem concerning routine and widespread violations of basic human and constitutional rights in Poland. The size of the problem is huge.
We feel our particular case is an important one because it shows with clinical precision the mountains of pathology in Poland. The conventional propaganda has it that it is the uneducated and the unskilled ones who face the largest difficulties in Poland. Quite opposite is actually true. It is the best and the brightest whose rights are violated most significantly.
I am enclosing below the letter written by my wife MG and myself. It focuses on her personal experience as a target of a brutal elimination campaign. Our experience, the experience of our families and the observation of the public life in Poland leave us no choice but to conclude that Poland is not a democracy. It never was a democracy after 1990 despite many claims to the contrary. This is certainly a strong statement since it goes against the conventional view. However this claim is based on fighting for our dignity and honor "in the trenches" of our personal lives, in a day-to-day struggle for our rights that are supposedly guaranteed both by the national constitution and by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. You have to look the beast close in the eye in order to understand the full extent of human rights violations. The Polish post-communist bureaucracy is exceedingly skillful in falsifying the reality. In this sense there is a full continuity between the communist times and the regime of the present day.
The problem that most journalists, academic researchers and politicians miss completely is the survival, cohesiveness and flourishing of the entire social group related to the communist junta. It is this hidden dimension that determines career paths. It is also a taboo subject. The names of political factions and officially declared political views do not matter at all. Poland is a political cabaret where the action on the political stage is the least important of all. If necessary, new political parties can be easily created out of thin air with the same cast of the usual suspects and their friends. There is the hidden information flow for the 10-20 privileged per cent of the population (this is only an order-of-magnitude estimate) and there is the political farce for the rest of us.
Non-governmental organizations are equally useless. They are part of theatrical decorations and are mostly vehicles for self-promotion or misuse of funds. They can forever organize seminars on certain themes without advancing democracy by an iota.
Let us make ourselves perfectly clear. There never was a civil society in Poland after 1945. The prevailing view that the rise of the civil society in the 1970s and 1980s somehow brought about the regime change and democratization can be safely classified as a fairy tale.
It was not easy to arrive at this conclusion. We have been bombarded with the praise for the successful Polish democratization both from within our country and from without. However for many years that picture was at odds with our daily experience. Finally, some more recent traumatic events provided us with plenty of evidence about the survival of dictatorship in Poland and about its current character.
I am an associate professor of Physics at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland. I have significant international experience. I was a graduate student at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, and University of Florida in Gainesville, where I obtained my Ph.D. in Physics in 1995. During my doctoral studies I spent one year in Germany at the Karlsruhe University. Also I once did practical training at the Twente University in the Netherlands as an undergraduate. I spent one year as a postdoctoral research associate at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in 1997/98.
My wife and I can present mechanisms that are routinely employed for the purpose of destroying individual careers and lives in Poland. We can travel to Brussels to deliver our testimony in person.
I, MG, am a pianist and a piano teacher at the school of music in Zielona Gora in Western Poland. It is a public school supervised by the Ministry of Culture. It consists of two levels. Both levels take six years to complete. Most students stop after six years, since the musical education at the higher level is quite demanding. The pupils who take the full course of study, typically graduate at the age of 19. The second-level graduates may continue their musical education at the university level.
I graduated from the Academy of Music in Poznan in 1991 and soon afterwards took a job at the Zielona Gora school as a teacher of piano. I had many successes during my teaching career. My pupils won awards at nationwide and international piano competitions. I received many awards from the school's directors, as well as the award from the Minister of Culture. My hard work earned respect among the students, their parents and fellow teachers. I was appointed head of the 18- member piano section in 2008.
In September 2011 I was suddenly attacked by a new employee of the piano section, who was hired in 2009. She challenged part of our teaching program, claiming it was not compatible with the Ministry regulations. Our teaching programs are reviewed periodically, every couple of years. The last such review was held in May 2011. After some cosmetic changes the program was approved by the members of our section during one of our meetings. This was a routine procedure. Teaching programs in the classes of classical instruments may evolve in time but do not change radically. I gave a written response and handed the matter over to the director. Very soon it became clear that the attack on the section's teaching program was only a prelude. This was a provocation whose aim was to start a vicious campaign against me, to vilify me as a person, teacher, and a social being. The school's director should normally make decision, one way or another, and close the matter. Instead the director avoided making any decisions and started participating in various attacks against myself. I was attacked in every possible way.
Meetings were arranged during which the provocateur was allowed to publicly throw unfounded accusations against me. It became absolutely clear, beyond any doubt, that everything I say or do will be used against me. It did not matter what was right and what was wrong, what was true and what was false. I gave abundant detailed explanations, I begged for rational, simple decisions, to no avail. Someone decided to destroy my professional life, my public image, to totally discredit me as a person and to annihilate my ability to perform social and managerial functions. The smearing campaign was in full swing. For example, I was officially reprimanded for my absence at a meeting of our school's section heads with the director. On that day I did not have any classes and I had to go to a doctor because my health deteriorated as a result of relentless vicious attacks, conducted openly, publicly with full approval and participation of the school's director and the local area representative of the
Ministry of Culture. In addition to enormous, unbearable psychological stress, I developed somatic symptoms such as not being able to speak without coughing, as if something was clutching my throat.
In one letter to me the director indicated that I was mentally unstable. Similar opinions were voiced to school employees. My every step, my every move was closely watched. It was a manhunt and I was the target. When I notified the Minister of Culture about all of this in November and December 2011, nothing changed. At this point it was clear that all these attacks, all this war waged against me had the government's seal of approval.
In the first days of September 2011 I also became head of the Parents Council, although not without some hesitation. As someone who knew the school very well both as a teacher and as a parent (my daughter was a student of piano in the school; she dropped the school since the attacks began), I had some ideas about improving its role and I wanted to give it a try. I seemed to have a full support of both the director and the parents. However, it turned out very quickly that my role in the Parents Council was used as yet another opportunity for brutal attacks. I asked the director for the Bylaws of the Council. The director presented to me a document that had neither a date, nor a signature. Obviously the Council had to vote a fresh set of Bylaws in order to avoid legal problems. However the saboteurs in the Parents Council blocked my attempt to introduce the bylaws, which was required by law. They simply refused to discuss and vote on the matter.
A special Ministry of Culture representative arrived just before Christmas 2011, supposedly to investigate the charges against the misuse of the Parents Council funds. This is the version I was given in writing by the representative. Some time earlier the director refused to show financial documents of the Parents Council, thus breaching the law. I was forced by the director to sign payment agreements e.g. for the insurance of the school buildings. Our school is public. The Minister of Culture acts as the school owner and paying for the school's insurance was obviously outside the responsibility of the Parents Council and a clear violation of the law.
A report was written and the verdict was issued in the first days of January 2012. The Ministry declared that all school documents were in perfect order and that my complaints about bullying and mobbing were completely unfounded. Instead I was being accused of showing authoritarian tendencies. However, the Ministry refused to send me the report's copy. The attacks continued. I was again assaulted verbally during meetings of the school's pedagogical council, i.e. the entire teachers body, in February and March 2012. There were also new provocations from the director, who tried to instigate a conflict between me and the school's orchestra conductor, when one of my students was to play Edward Grieg Concerto in A-minor with the school's symphonic orchestra, consisting of upper-class students. The director falsely accused me of being absent from work during my teaching hours. I was being forced into signing documents whose authenticity could not be established. No signature meant being accused of insubordination.
My every single activity was taken as a pretext to new attacks. When I hanged nice color posters in the school's hallway announcing my pupil's performance, I was accused of displaying unauthorized material.
One of the best employees this school has ever had, someone who made every effort to improve teaching methods and take a student to a higher level, someone who was always a team player and a good leader when one was needed, was now being made into the public enemy number one on all fronts. In parallel with this campaign of terror various school documents were falsified and fabricated in order to support the absurd accusations against me.
On March 8th 2012, the International Women's Day in Poland, I received an official note terminating my appointment as head of the piano section. Just two days earlier, on March 6th 2012, I went to Ministry of Culture in Warsaw and personally delivered full documentation related to the attacks. The law regulating the educational system in Poland states that a superior cannot dismiss a person from a managerial position in the school system without giving a detailed description of the charges against that person. The letter of dismissal contained no basis for this decision. It was another provocation. I suppose that in a normal democratic country the school's director would get into big trouble and quickly lose the job as a result of orchestrating and participating in all this orgy of bullying and mobbing. But not in Poland, because Poland is not a democratic country. Clearly the director has been following orders and was assured of full impunity.
When I decided to contact the prosecutor in January 2012, I hoped for the psychological terror to stop. I already had to take psychotropic pills to take me through every single day of this hell. I thought that the necessity to testify under oath would bring an end to this vicious cycle. The prosecutor was not in a hurry. He interviewed me on my own insistence, treating me more like a suspect than a victim. He behaved aggressively towards me. No one else was interviewed by him. No documents were checked. The prosecutor decided not to start any proceedings. When I read the letter announcing his decision I was surprised to find that he distorted my statement on the misuse of Parents Council funds. In other words my testimony was falsified by the prosecutor. Theoretically I could challenge this decision in the court but it already became clear that the court would act in a similar way. The lawless system could do anything to me. I was helpless. I realized that the facade of the democratic state was only a facade, nothing more. Law and justice do not exist in Poland. A gang of thugs could destroy an innocent citizen in a broad daylight, with full approval of the government and with eager participation of the functionaries of the legal apparatus.
I read in amazement how the Western press continues to praise Poland as a successful member of the European Union and as a benchmark of democratic change from the brutal totalitarian regime to a peaceful, progressive, and ever more prosperous member of the international community of democratic countries. The truth is Poland remained an oppressive regime. It does not matter much which political party is currently in power as anyone with a brain and some common sense will quickly notice that Poland in fact is a dictatorship thinly disguised as a democracy. Peoples' careers and lives are destroyed before they even have a chance to become leaders in different fields of social and professional activity.
The communist totalitarian state has transformed itself. Perestroika was hugely successful. The power remained in the same hands. New lies and new tricks were invented. You do not have to bring out the tanks onto the streets in order to maintain the grip on power. After years of brutal murders, expulsion, repression and intimidation, you only need to keep an eye on those few individuals who become outspoken and dare to criticize the current regime. These days you do not have to shoot them in the back of the head somewhere in the pine forest in the wee hours of the morning. My grandfather, a graduate of the Wilno conservatory in the class of violin in the years before WWII, narrowly escaped this kind of death. He was an officer of the Polish army at the beginning of WWII, imprisoned by the Soviet Russia as a prisoner of war in the towns of Kozielsk and Griazovets in 1940. My grandfather fought later with the Allied forces on the Western front. When he returned to Poland to reunite with his son, he was immediately arrested and thrown in jail by the communist secret police in 1947. During the war my grandmother was forced by the German Nazis to do slave labor. She had a little son, who later became my father. She died soon of exhaustion and illness soon after the end of the war. Communists succeeded in breaking the bond between the loving father and his son. Breaking up families who value dignity and honor remains at the core of the junta strategy. My husband, an associate professor of physics, is the target of an acute discrimination, bullying and mobbing at the Department of Physics of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.
These days careers of select individuals in Poland are killed at will, one by one, on fabricated, absurd charges. The communists knew perfectly well that you can't go on forever killing people physically. They gradually changed their tactics. Instead of killing the body they focused on killing the mind and the soul. The advanced knowledge of the social sciences was employed for the sole purpose of murdering the soul and murdering the social dimension of a person. Psychology became operational psychology. The key elements to the successful murder of the social being are the isolation of the victim and the participation of as many perpetrators as possible. This is the true meaning of Solidarity in Poland. It is the solidarity of the oppressors against an individual. All these methods inherited by the current Polish junta are widely used in Poland today. Psychological terror against any bright and brave individual standing up for dignity and honor is the main tool of the regime.
We are faced with a new type of dictatorship. We have multi-party elections in Poland, we have the parliament, different newspapers and tv channels, facebooks and twitters, and often the same tv series as people watch all over the world. However the ugly minds adapted to all that and are taking full advantage of the technological progress. They are running a system which one of us (L.S.B.) calls the BTL dictatorship, i.e. dictatorship "below-the-line". The chain of command is hidden from view. The tyranny relies on many seemingly independent acts committed by a large number of perpetrators in different institutions. It is the solidarity of the junta against the rest of us. The perpetrators of the junta are rewarded with money, prizes, careers, and social status.
The so-called velvet revolution of the 1989-90 was a fraud. This was merely a transformation of the brutal regime into a new form. A form that was better adapted to a new reality. This new form of dictatorship imitates the language of mature democracies. It imitates their rhetoric. It imitates some democratic processes. But it is no more than an exercise in deception. Another act in the same theatrical play, where public rituals are supposed to trick people into believing that beneath the rituals there is a genuine democratic content. However beneath a thin veil of democratic rituals is the same stalinist iron fist. Wladyslaw Gomulka, the First Secretary of the communist party declared in his Moscow speech on 18 June 1945, "We will never relinquish the power that we once won" ("Raz zdobytej władzy nie oddamy nigdy"). And it is this quote that perfectly describes the post-1990 Poland. Gomulka's followers kept his promise. The much-publicized Lech Walesa's line "We the People", opening his speech to the American Congress in 1991 was a lie.
The Polish communist junta seemed to give up power in a negotiated settlement with the representatives of the so-called democratic opposition in 1989. Much has been written about the apparent rise of the civil society in the communist countries and how it brought about the regime change. The course of events over the next twenty four years proved beyond any doubt hat that 1989 settlement was merely a trick enabling the communists to remain in control and to continue occupying all positions of power. The "democratic opposition" was neither opposition nor was it democratic. It was a device created by the communist dictatorship in order to legitimize the departure from the dull, old-style regime and mask the transition to a new, more advanced form of tyranny.
MG and LSB