Saturday, February 28, 2009

72-year-old gyno faces 3 years jail for abortion

A 72-year-old gynecologist was arrested by Western Pomernia police in his private surgery in the middle of a consultation regarding the performance of an illegal abortion.

Spokesperson for the police, Marek Karczynski, while refusing to give details of the arrest, stated that it occurred Friday afternoon in Police, near Szczecin.

A spokesperson for the Regional Prosecutor of Szczecin’s office, Malgorzata Wojciechowicz, stated that police entered the doctor’s surgery to find him in consultation with a pregnant woman and an anesthesiologist “likely just moments before the abortion.”

Wojciechowicz claims that the woman sought out the abortion.

The 72-year-old doctor faces 8,000 zloty (1,700 euro) bail from jail, police supervision to ensure that he does not flee the country and up to three year in prison if convicted. The anesthesiologist and woman have been subpoenaed for testimony.

Friday, February 27, 2009

19 year old Pole murders aunt?

A 19-year old man from Radom, central Poland, is being detained on susoicion of murdering his aunt.

He has been arrested and is going to be detained for three months, as reported by the press representative of the Masovian police, Rafal Sulecki.

Last week police officers from Ciepielowo (Masovian region) were informed that a 51-year old lady from Kaweczyn had gone missing.

Initially, they assumed the woman had got lost in the nearby forest. Both the police and firemen unsuccessfully searched the area. A corpse was later found, however,in a utility room at the block of flats where the woman lived.

"The victim sustained head injuries which were the direct cause of her death,” said the police spokesperson.

The police gathered and secured evidence which clearly indicated that the murder was committed in the victim's own home. Later on the murderer moved the body in order to conceal traces of crime," said Sulecki.

The police detained the 19-year old suspect, who confessed to the crime, but was not clear as to the motives for his behaviour. They also found some things the man had stolen from his aunt. The investigation is going to be carried out by the District Public Prosecutor's Office in Lipsk.

The man may be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Soldiers drunk on duty abroad

Polish soldiers are consuming alcohol while on international missions despite a ban, says the latest report by the Poland’s Military Prosecutor’s Office.

2008 saw 58 Polish soldiers reported to be under the influence of alcohol while on duty. Eight of them, included in the report, were caught either on duty or while driving a vehicle.

Military officers admit that they happen to use alcohol from time to time despite this being strictly forbidden. However, they complain about being the only nation with such heavy restrictions put on them, saying that soldiers from other countries have special canteens where they can drink on their time off.

For using alcohol on duty soldiers may be forced to pay up to 20,000 zlotys in fines or a possible suspension.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top coach detained in football corruption

Andrzej B., former coach of first division Wisla Krakow, has been detained in connection with the ongoing investigation into widespread corruption in Polish football.

Central Anticorruption Bureau officials detained, Andrzej B. in Warsaw, Tuesday morning.

The man will be transported to Wroclaw, where he will hear as many as 89 charges leveled against him by the National Prosecutor’s Office.

Andrzej B. was already detained in March 2008, when charges of fixing matches against Korona Kielce in the season 2003/2004 were leveled against him. This was followed by the coach’s resignation in April 2008.

The investigation into the affair was launched in May 2005. Since then, over 400 charges have been leveled against over 180 coaches, referees and players.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Poles think Jews have too much power, claims survey

Fifty five percent of Poles think that Jews have too much power in international financial markets, according to a new survey by the Anti Defamation League.

The annual survey (pdf) looked at attitudes towards Jewish people in seven countries - Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Sixty three percent of those surveyed in Poland responded that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country,” a rise of four percent from a similar report taken in 2007. Fifty five percent think that "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust," a fall of three percent 12 months ago.

Overall, the findings across Europe were similar to those in 2007, with many Europeans continuing to believe in some of the “most pernicious anti-Semitic stereotypes,” says ADL.

"This poll confirms that anti-Semitism remains alive and well in the minds of many Europeans," claims Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.

The poll was taken from a sample of 3,500, with just 500 from each country.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lithuania taking down Polish street signs

Polish street sign
By the end of the month, the regional government near Vilnius, Lithuania will take down all of the street signs that are written in both Polish and Lithuanian.

Last Friday, the Supreme Administrative Court decided that street signs are to be written only in Lithuanian.

“The decision of the court is final and absolute. We are required to bow to the decision of the court,” stated the secretary of the Vilnius regional council, Renata Cytacka.

In the Wednesday edition of the Lietuvos Rytas, Jurgis Jurkeviczius, spokesperson for the government, told the paper that “if they do not remove the street signs in Polish from the Okreg Wilenska district, they will face court issues.” The Okreg Wilenski district is the equivalent of the Polish burrough.

The head of the district, Jonas Vasilauskas, does not see any problem with signs posted on private houses.

“Some will treat this as a violation of private property,” Vasilauskas told the paper.

Taking down the Polish-language signs in the district – where 60 percent of the residents are Polish – was an action initiated by Jurgis Jurkeviczius in December 2007. Since then, the affair has been in Lithuanian courts.

In accordance with the European Charter for Local Governments, which Lithuania signed and ratified, minority populations residing in Lithuania have the right to post signs in the minority language. That is the one aspect of the charter that is in conflict with Lithuanian regulations regarding their language.
  • Note: It's about time...
  • Sunday, February 22, 2009

    New evidence in the Polish football corruption affair

    New evidence in the ongoing investigation into rampant corruption in Polish football has shed light on the case, confirming that people involved in the affair were acting like a ‘real mafia.’

    The prosecutor’s office has found new evidence in the case thanks to the investigation work done by Przeglad Sportowy, who revealed the lists of calls made by the suspects from Arka Gdynia, a team promoted to Premiere League, the top division of Polish football for the season 2008- 2009. The materials show how extensive the criminal network was.

    Ryszard F., nicknamed ‘Fryzjer’ (Hairdresser), the former football activist, currently on trial, as well as a head of the referees Marian D. and a member of the Polish Football Association board Henryk Klocek used to convince referees to accept bribes given by the heads of Arka Gdynia, Jacek M. and the team leader Wieslaw K.

    A detailed analysis of the gathered data has proved that those involved were aware of the risk they were taking – they changed their mobile phone cards regularly to hamper the actions of the police.

    Przeglad Sportowy has described in detail all the corruption methods applied by the culprits – which included phone calls made by many of them during one of the fixed matches, after which Wieslaw K. is accused of having bribed a referee to the tune of 5,000 zlotys (1200 euro).

    The investigation on corruption in Polish football has been underway since May 2005.

    Saturday, February 21, 2009

    Leased Polish helicopters do not meet safety standards

    Last week, a Polish helicopter rented by the Health Ministry crashed near Bolu after taking off from Istanbul, killing the two pilots on board, but the tragic accident is unlikely to be the last, according to Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) Adana deputy Kursat Atilgan.

    Atilgan, who served as a pilot and an aerial fleet commander in the Turkish Air Force for many years, claimed that the health and forestry ministries' helicopter and plane tenders were prone to corruption and that the helicopters leased rarely meet international flight safety regulations and standards.

    Stating that helicopters leased by the Health Ministry from Poland for use in aerial ambulance services were not rented at a reasonable price even though they were claimed to be so, Atilgan said the 12 firefighting helicopters leased by the Environment and Forestry Ministry failed to meet the Transportation Ministry's requirement that such aircraft should not be more than 10 years old.

    Atilgan also holds that an investigation should be launched into the lease tenders considering that the helicopters leased by both ministries were the same brand. Atilgan believes that the mistake made in these transactions is an irregularity rather than corruption. Emphasizing that it was a mistake for the ministries to negotiate these deals despite having no knowledge of aviation, Atilgan notes that the tenders and subsequent deals should be concluded by experts and competent commissions.

    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Student detained for teacher harassment

    Another student accused of harassing his teacher has been detained in Ryki, in central Poland.

    The boy has admitted to having harassed his teacher, explaining that he wanted to seem 'cool' in front of his friends, two of whom had been already detained.

    Videos recorded in the class show the 19-year old boy not only dancing and insulting the teacher, but also hitting him. He also screamed "behave yourself or you will go to the hospital." The rest of the teenagers in the class seemed to support their friends’ actions.

    The boy expressed his strong regrets about what he had done, saying that he was ready to suffer the consequences, as well as apologize to the teacher in public.

    The teacher, with 20 years experience in the classroom, filed charges against the students only after the first of the recordings was put on the internet in January. He stated that he had not filed charges earlier because ‘ he was hoping that his students would start behaving themselves.’

    Jaroslaw O. and Kamil N., 19 year-olds detained on Monday with the same charges, pleaded guilty. They faced a sentence of six and three months in prison, respectively, with three years additional parole. As well, the boys face a 500 zloty (120 euro) and 300 zloty (70 euro) penalty, respectively. They will also have to make public apologies.
  • Note: That's about right...
  • Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Polish soldiers go on trial for Afghan killings

    Seven Polish soldiers went on trial at a military court yesterday charged with the killing of a group of civilians during a tour of duty in Afghanistan two years ago, prosecutors said.

    Six of the soldiers, who were serving as members of NATO’s international security assistance force (ISAF), are facing possible life sentences if found guilty by the military tribunal sitting in the capital Warsaw.

    After the group pleaded not guilty, prosecutors told the court that six civilians, including women and children, were killed and three were seriously injured after the Polish troops opened mortar and machine gun fire in the village of Nangar Khel in the country’s mountainous south-east.

    “One person is accused of opening fire on a civilian area, while the remaining six are charged with opening fire on a civilian area, murder of civilians and causing grievous bodily harm to civilians,” military prosecutor Colonel Jakub Mytych said.

    The soldiers maintain that they opened fire in response to an attack by a Taliban militia and claim the deaths resulted from faulty mortar equipment.

    But military prosecutors say the deaths occurred several hours after the Poles had responded to an attack on a separate ISAF patrol. Mytych said all but one of the accused are facing maximum life sentences in prison in found guilty as charged. A court spokesman said that the group were the first Polish soldiers to be tried with breaking an international convention on protecting civilians.

    “This is the first trial in the history of the Polish army for an alleged violation of the 1907 Hague Fourth Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land and the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War,” court spokesman Rafal Korkus said. Poland currently has 1,600 troops in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a Polish court yesterday overturned the indecent exposure conviction of two women, including a model who has appeared in men’s magazines, who had sunbathed topless, a rarity in this deeply Catholic country.

    The court in the nothwestern city of Szczecin threw out a ruling by a lower level tribunal which in November had issued a legal reprimand to the women, aged 26 and 28, ordering them to pay costs.The Szczecin court said the November ruling was wrongheaded because the women’s toplessness had caused “neither scandal nor indignation”.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Another two detained in Polish football corruption probe

    Polish police have detained two people in connection with an ongoing football corruption investigation.

    Police in the western city of Poznan on Monday detained Lech Poznan striker Piotr Reiss and a former member of the club's governing board, Przemyslaw E., on suspicion of match rigging.

    The 36-year-old Reiss has also played for Hertha Berlin and has four appearances with the Polish national team.

    The two are being transported from Poznan to Wroclaw for questioning.

    Wroclaw prosecutors launched an investigation in 2005 into corruption in Polish football.

    So far they have charged more than 150 people - including members of the Polish Football Federation, coaches, referees, players and club officials - with fixing matches in the top domestic leagues.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    UEFA to assess ‘racism threat’ during Euro

    UEFA will use a Warsaw anti-racism summit to assess the threat of racial prejudice being expressed during the Euro 2012 championships to be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.

    In an open letter sent to the 250 delegates attending the Football Against Racism conference on March 3 and 4, UEFA General Secretary David Taylor writes: "We now want to create an opportunity to review progress and renew our call for action. In particular, we want to record positive developments and in view of EURO 2012™ look at the challenges facing us in the east and what more the European football family can do."

    The Warsaw conference will be held by the Polish football association, PZPN and the pan-European Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network. The objectives of the summit, says the UEFA web site, include, “raising awareness of the problems of racism and discrimination in football among the members of the football family; proposing positive and practical solutions for addressing racism in the game and in society; and sharing examples of good practice in different settings and among different actors – clubs, NGOs and supporters' groups.’

    This will be the third such conference on anti-racism organised by UEFA, after summits were held in London and Barcelona and the European soccer governing body has contributed 312,500 euros to the project.

    The perception in Europe that there may be problems with racism at the championships in 2012 is not a new one. In a BBC documentary, broadcast last year, a journalist reported that the “deep seated racism still within Polish football” could be a greater threat to the games than the nation’s infamous lack of travel and tourist infrastructure.

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Divorce fair to take place in Warsaw

    This weekend Poland’s capital is to host a ‘divorce fair’ aimed at helping couples untie the knot as painlessly as possible.

    Some 30 exhibitors, including private detectives, lawyers, sexologists and even companies conducting DNA tests, are to present their services at the fair.

    The idea of divorce fairs is new in Poland and it comes from Austria, where they are held under the banner of A new beginning. In Poland the first event of this kind was held in the western city of Wroclaw in September.

    The thematic scope of the fair is an answer to the current ‘market demand’, claim the advertising experts.

    And ‘market’ demand in Poland is growing pretty fast. According to data of the Central Statistical Office (GUS), every third marriage in Poland ends in divorce. In 2007 as many as 65,000 married couples split up, which is 20,000 more that ten years ago.

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Minister Klich denies he is in danger of the sack

    Defence Minister Bogdan Klich has denied having talks with Prime Minister Donald Tusk about his possible dismissal, so contradicting reports which appeared in the media, Monday.

    Press reports accused Klich of financing his wife's foundation, the Strategic Studies Institute, from the National Treasury resources.

    "It was a blow to our hearts," said Klich, underlining that the Prime Minister did not mentioned anything about his impending dismissal.

    "[PM Tusk] has the right reshuffle his ministers. I'm a loyal minister and I will do whatever he asks me to," he said, adding that if the prime minister wants him to resign, he will not hesitate to stand down.

    Klich denied putting National Treasury money into his wife's foundation. Bogdan Klich was appointed Minister of National Defence on 15 November 2007 and the following day gave his role as chief of Strategic Studies Institute and replaced by his wife on January 2008.

    The head of the Prime Minister's political cabinet Slawomir Nowak has also denied that the minister is in danger of being sacked, saying that Klich is a good member of the government who performs his duties well.

    The allegations against Klich and speculation that he will be dismissed comes only days after PM Tusk asked for and obtained the resignation of Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski.

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Yet another detention in Polish football corruption investigation

    A former member of the second division Unia Janikowo football club, Andrzej B., has been detained in relation with an ongoing investigation into widespread corruption within Polish football.

    The Central Investigation Bureau will level over 40 charges against the Andrzej B., who is being taken Wroclaw, south-western Poland, for questioning. He will be accused of fixing football matches during the 2005/2006 season.

    The major inquiry into corruption in Polish football was launched in 2005, with the prosecutor's office in Wroclaw leveling charges against over 180 people, including referees, coaches and players.

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Polish woman from Hickory Hills indicted in murder of her husband

    As his sister-in-law sits in a Cook County Jail cell accused of murdering his brother, Karl Fabian can't help thinking about how the tragedy could have been avoided.

    "She isolated my brother from the rest of the family," Karl Fabian said Friday of Maria Fabian. "She completely dominated him.

    "My brother stayed in that house for his son," he said. "But he was afraid of her. He had told me on several occasions that she was capable of murder.

    "She is pure evil."

    Maria Fabian, 52, was indicted Thursday on six counts of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of her husband Michael, 70, inside the couple's Hickory Hills home Jan. 5.

    Michael Fabian suffered from a respiratory condition that required him to use oxygen, police said.

    Married 18 years, Fabian told police she shot her husband while he slept in the couple's bed, police said.

    She used one of the 17 handguns her husband owned and kept locked in a safe, police said.

    Her husband was shot once in the back and a second time in the chest, prosecutors said.

    Married four times, Maria Fabian told police she grew frustrated with having to care for an ailing husband, police said.

    Karl Fabian said his brother "wasn't dying fast enough for her."

    "She had blown through several hundred thousand dollars of his money in the last two years, and she knew he was going to find out about it," he said. "It was always a control thing with her. She controlled everything."

    Born in Poland, Maria Fabian reportedly owns property in her homeland, according to Karl Fabian.

    "And I'm sure it was purchased with my brother's money," he said.

    Karl Fabian said he regrets ever introducing his brother to Maria, which he did nearly 20 years ago.

    "She was a friend of a friend, and she asked if I knew any single guys," Karl Fabian said. "Boy, was that a big mistake."

    He said he just doesn't understand why this happened.

    "If she didn't want to be married anymore, all she had to do was grab her passport and jump on a plane to Poland," Karl Fabian said. "But I guess that was too easy."

    Maria Fabian is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 4.

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Polish MP finds provocative remarks costly

    Janusz Palikot
    Poland has at least temporarily lost its political clown prince, MP Janusz Palikot, who horrified and amused Poles with his provocative news conferences and his inflammatory blog, but who performed useful work as the head of a parliamentary commission aimed at slashing the red tape constricting the country’s economy.

    Mr Palikot resigned on Tuesday as head of the commission after causing yet another scandal that the ruling Civic Platform party could not ignore.

    In recent days he had accused Grazyna Gesicka, the former minister of regional development, of politically “prostituting herself” for questioning the government’s statistics in applying for EU funds. More seriously, he suggested that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the right-wing opposition Law and Justice party, may be gay.

    Those were the latest in a long series of provocations which had turned the floppy-haired Mr Palikot into one of Poland’s most recognisable politicians. Earlier he had wondered whether Lech Kaczynski, the president and twin brother of the opposition leader, had a problem with alcohol. He had also held a news conference during which he waved around a pistol and a vibrator, accusing police of rape.

    His outbursts had been tolerated because of his work on the commission. The former liquor magnate attacked Poland’s many ridiculous laws and regulations with a vengeance, and was strongly supported by business. Donald Tusk, the prime minister, has made battling red tape one of the centrepieces of his government, and Mr Palikot was the project’s most visible face.

    In its first year the commission pushed through many changes in tax law that made it more difficult for tax authorities to needlessly harass business, and automatically converted farmland within city boundaries into building land.

    But a visibly angry Mr Tusk had evidently had enough of the problems generated by Mr Palikot.

    The chastened MP, who will now be the deputy head of the commission, told reporters on Tuesday that giving up his post, “Made me feel like I was dying.”

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    New justice minister nominated

    Andrzej Czuma has been nominated to the post of Poland’s justice minister. He replaces Zbigniew Cwiakalski dismissed in the scandal surrounding prison suicides committed by main convicts in a kidnapping case.

    Czuma said his greatest challenge would be to increase the sense of public security among society. Clearing up the case of the kidnapping and murder of Krzysztof Olewnik and the following controversies would be his priority, he said: 'It will be my priority to look very closely into the work of law enforcement services, in order to wipe out all kinds of weird mafia-type groups there, the ties between politicians and bandits. In order to undertake effective tasks, you have to take a very close look at all that.'

    Czuma's appointment by the PM still needs approval of the President. According to minister Michal Kaminski from the President’s Office, given the candidate’s impeccable record, this should only be a formality.

    Andrzej Czuma, 70 years old, is an MP of the ruling Civic Platform (PO) and former activist of the democratic opposition in the communist period. He was imprisoned for 7 years by the regime for organizing the Movement In Defense Of Civic and Human Rights. He was also a regional Solidarity advisor after August 1980. Interned during martial law till December 1982, Czuma emigrated to the United States in 1986 not returning to Poland till 2005. Andrzej Czuma has been merited with Poland’s highest state distinctions for his pro-democratic activity.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Poland complains of anti- Polonism

    Poland's foreign ministry is looking into two recent incidents, in France and Spain, of perceived Polonophobia.

    An advertisement of The Pianist by Roman Polanski, presented in the Spanish leftist daily Publico, included the caption: "A heart- breaking story taking place in the Nazi Poland."

    "This is an act directed at those not familiar with WWII realities," said professor of culture Piotr Jaroszynski, according to whom numerous European and American papers are 'controlled by anti - Polish groups'.

    The Spanish advertisement has reportedly caused a stir among Poles living in Spain.

    The Foreign Ministry is currently investigating the case.

    Poland has complained many times in the past to publications like the New York Times, which insist in calling Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps 'Polish' concentration or death camps.

    In April 2004, the American CTV News report made reference to "the Polish camp in Treblinka".

    In 2007, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO officially declared the camp at Oswiecim as the "Auschwitz - Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)" after complaints from numerous Polish governments.

    However, Spain is not the only place where perceived Polonophobic statements have been made recently.

    The Critical European Union Dictionary, issued by publishers in France, defines Poland as "irresponsible, corrupt and hindering the EU integration process?"

    MEP Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka of the Law and Justice party has dismissed the 'dictionary' and compared the quality of the publication to that ?of a cookbook'.

    "It is not worth dabbling in this puddle of intellectual sewage," she said. Other references in the book include: "Will Poland turn out to be Brussels' worst nightmare?", and "How can one explain Poland's stubbornness and so heavily criticized political egoism?"

    The work on the EU dictionary was supervised by several professors from the pro-EU Robert Shuman Foundation.

    Monday, February 09, 2009

    Three years for Polish burglar who 'violated' home

    A burglar was jailed for three years today after a judge told him he had violated a woman's home while she was on holiday.

    Evanthea Pelopidou returned home from a break in Cyprus in July last year to find her house had been ransacked by burglars who stole nearly ?30,000 of property.

    Old Bailey Judge Timothy Pontius told Christophe Muszynski that he was taking a tough stand following a recent judgment by the Lord Chief Justice.

    Judge Pontius said papers served on Muszynski meant he would be deported to Poland after serving his sentence.

    He said: "It does not take much imagination to understand how disturbing a burglary can be.

    "It is not just the taking of items, it is the fact that a home has been violated.

    "Damage was done and the property subjected to a thorough ransacking.

    "The owner told police the house was in a terrible state."

    The court was told that the burglar alarm had been tampered with while the contents of drawers were strewn around.

    The burglars had thrown chocolate wrappers and empty beer bottles onto furniture and urine had been left in the toilet.

    Mrs Pelopidou's daughter told police she could not get into the rooms upstairs because of the mess.

    Muszynski, 24, of Walthamstow, east London, was found guilty of burglary last month after the jury was told his fingerprints were found at the house Edmonton, north London.

    Muszynski had previous convictions and was on bail for other matters at the time of the break-in during which jewellery and electronic items were taken.

    The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, last week said burglars must expect tougher sentences for violating homes.

    Lord Judge said: "There is a long-standing, almost intuitive belief that our homes should be our castles."

    He issued formal guidance for all courts in England and Wales calling for a robust approach to domestic break-ins.

    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    Massive lay-offs planned in Poland

    Job centres across the country say that the number of mass lay-offs is mounting in Poland as the finance crisis bites deeper.

    The state-owned banking giant PKO BP is intending to dismiss as many as 1722 employees. Group redundancies are also planned by the National Bank of Poland, amounting to 343 people.

    According to data collatied by the job centre in Szczecin, north-western Poland, at the end of last year as many as 35 companies declared that they would make 1,500 workers redundant in the region in 2009.

    In the Masovia region, central Poland which includes the capital Warsaw, a total of 10,500 employees will be dismissed from some 53 companies, including media group Agora S.A. and VOS LOGISTICS, as well as Thompson in Piaseczno and Porfetti Van Melle Polska in Rembertow, on the outskirts of Warsaw.

    In recent weeks large smelting works have declared that they intend to reduce employment levels. Steel giant ArcelorMittal is to get rid off some 980 workers in total and a the smelting plant in Zawiercie, southern Poland will lose 300 workers.

    Saturday, February 07, 2009

    Cost of living rockets in Warsaw

    The cost of living in Warsaw has risen by 15 percent in the last year and is now catching up with other western European capitals in terms of expense.

    The Mercer consultancy company, which compared 143 cities all over the world, regarding cost of housing, public transport, food, clothes, entertainment and domestic appliances, demonstrates that citizens of Warsaw have to pay day-to-day items more than people in Berlin or Brussels. The Polish capital is now the 35th most costly capital ? one year ago it was 67th.

    Unfortunately, high prices do not go, as usually, with a high wages.

    Average pay in Warsaw is 4.600 zlotys (just over 1,000 euros) and in other large cities in Poland this figure is much lower still. The average employee earns three or four times less in Poland than they would get for the same in Germany.

    Friday, February 06, 2009

    Palikot resigns from Friendly Nation Commission

    Janusz Palikot, the maverick politician from Civic Platform has announced his resignation as head of the parliamentary Commission for a Friendly Nation.

    Palikot claims on his blog that he will resign officially at 14:00 today because he does not want to stay in what has become 'an awkward position' with colleagues from the party.

    The politician has recommended Miroslaw Sekuly to take up his post. He evaluated Sekuly as one who has the potential to work hard to ensure that the commission functions to it's full potential.

    The Commission for a Friendly Nation was set up by Palikot to make government less bureaucratic, more accessible to the people, and to assure that government does not hinder the rights of its citizens.

    It's fitting he has announced his resignation on his blog, as this has been the source of the politician's problems. Recently he called for former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski to end the speculation as to whether he was a homosexual, or not. Last year Palikot used his blog to call for President Kaczynski's health records to be made public to end speculation that he was an alcoholic, or not.

    Last week the government, led by Civic Platform, appeared to lose patients with their maverick colleague and many called for his suspension from the party.

    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    THREE men who terrified shop staff in gun-point raids have been jailed and ordered to be deported.

    The three Polish men stole more than $110,000 worth of jewellery from Jacobs Jewellers in Reading and Buckingham Antiques in Marlow in Spring last year.

    Det Con James Humphries, of Reading CID, who led the investigations, said: ?This was a large and complicated investigation which we led from Reading, but also involved officers from Buckinghamshire and members of the Harrow community police team.

    "These three men are extremely dangerous and clearly willing to brandish handguns around in the middle of busy towns. They put their victims through terrifying ordeals and we can only hope that this sentencing can give them some closure.

    "These men are known to police in other countries and they will be deported to Poland upon their release."

    At Oxford Crown Court Damian Kaczynski, 27, Adam Romulewicz [CORR], 29, and Jaroslaw Trzcinski, 24 were sentenced to six years each for the Reading robbery. The two older men were given a further eight years for the Marlow raid.

    All three men from Pinner Road, Harrow, attacked Jacobs in King Street in Reading town centre on April 16 and one threatened staff with a hand gun while the others used hammers to smash the glass cabinets and fill a ruck sack with $10,000 worth jewellery.

    On May 3, Romulewicz and Kaczynski both used hand guns in a similar raid at Buckingham Antiques in High Street, Marlow, stealing jewellery worth $100,000.

    Romulewicz and Kaczynski were both arrested in Harrow on May 9 and Trzcinski was arrested in Marlow a day later.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Human trafficking in Poland

    This week, I would like to draw your attention to a far more serious issue than hipster party scenes and bison grass vodka. Polish media has spent the past week or so bringing to light the issue of human trafficking in Poland.

    On the 12th of January, the story of a poor Ugandan woman, lured from her country with hope of finding a better life in Europe, was made public. She has, in recent days, become the press' poster child for sex slaves ? a position I am sure must be difficult for her, yet, I am, on some level grateful that she has exposed herself and sacrificed her privacy to bring to the public?s attention such an important issue about which little details are known.

    Now, Poland is 96 percent homogenous, so any foreigner on the street stands out. As such, there are many rumors about the vast numbers of Roma beggars that frequent Warsaw streets, trams and busses. It is rumored, and more than likely true to varying degrees, that the majority of the women, boys and girls are slaves. They are said to be 'owned' by larger rings of people who kidnap or buy them from impoverished families, then drugged and brought West where it is possible to earn more money on the street begging, selling oneself, or playing the accordion. It is also said that these people are kept drunk or drugged in order to inhibit them from running away. Really, while these sorts of stories seem too horribly sad to be possible, they are not far from the truth, as the story of the Ugandan woman shows.

    Actually, Poland is perfectly positioned to be a country where trafficking of humans is not only easy but also desirable. The country is now an EU member, making it a veritable gateway to the West, but also it is the Eastern-most border of the EU, making it basically a welcoming mat for all sorts of things that can come from less open, less democratic countries like the Ukraine or Belarus or many other countries. Poland is often considered to be what is known as a 'transit country'. This means that Poland is really used as a portal into Western Europe people are brought through the country, likely given some sort of documents here and then transported farther west to cities like Berlin or London, which are extremely accessible from Poland, not to mention offer much larger financial possibilities in terms of the sex industry, illegal labour, or other sorts of forms of modern day human slavery.

    The most recent figures available from the Attourney General, that helps prosecute cases of human trafficking, show that between 1997 and 2007 there have been 2,885 reported cases of human trafficking in Poland. That number, one must remember, takes into account only those cases where the victim of trafficking has been able to get to a police station and report his or her story. This sort of situation is, however rare and it is almost impossible to measure just how many people are trafficked in or through Poland accurately, though organizations like La Strada International and the International Migration Organization, both of whom work tirelessly to raise awareness about and combat human trafficking, claim that the real numbers are much higher.

    The twenty-three-year old Ugandan woman was one of the luckier victims of trafficking. Her story, not yet fully known or publicized, is a sad one, and I am sure that she is only one of many unrecognized victims. The woman testifies that she was offered work in Europe, by a white man at home in Uganda, but was not told any details of what sort of work she would have. As well, she was told that she doesn?t need to do anything ? she will be provided with funds for the journey as well as a passport and visas. Her journey found the woman in Warsaw. She was left alone for a few minutes by her captors in a vehicle in the centre of the city. The young woman was able to escape the car and melt into the crowds at the city?s Central Train Station where she spent the night. Because she speaks English, she was able to get to a medical clinic, where she was helped to contact the police. So far, the Border Guards have not been able to identify or find her captors, likely because they work using false documents.

    Despite the fact that the official statistics for victims of human trafficking seems quite low in Poland, the country passed a law in 2003 that grants asylum for a temporary stay of one year to victims in order for a legal case to be opened and for them to be able to testify against their traffickers. As well, La Strada International, the European Network Against Trafficking in Human Beings, helps provide victims with shelter, care, food, and other basic necessities. They also work hard to keep victims safe against threats of violence from their perpetrators.

    Unfortunately, the La Strada facilities in Warsaw are experiencing budget problems. So, while the unfortunate case of this Ugandan woman has made headlines for a week or so, I only hope that it serves to draw sustained attention and definite action to help stop such a horrible phenomenon that is so hard to even fathom in this day and age.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Polish government intends to change vetting law, dissolve Vetting Bureau

    Poland’s government is planning to dissolve the Vetting Bureau of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which investigates the credibility of evidence contained in communist-era secret police files, Polish Radio reports.

    Daily Gazeta Wyborcza writes that the new project is part of an amendment to the controversial vetting law drawn up by the previous Law and Justice party administration. In accordance with the new bill, the bureau will be substituted with a new institution and the contents of files are to be published on the Internet (except for details of private lives).

    Public figures will be allowed to write comments on their files and attach additional documents. The bill is to keep the obligation for people in official posts to make declarations as to whether they cooperated or collaborated with communist era secret services, the paper says.

    The former vetting law was the subject of much controversy and ended up being referred to the Constitutional Tribunal, Polish Radio notes. The Tribunal questioned some its regulations, including the vetting of journalists and workers in private schools. The tribunal also ruled that proof of collaboration with communist authorities must include, not only evidence that the subject agreed to collaborate, but that there must be evidence of actual collaboration, Polish Radio says.

    Sunday, February 01, 2009

    Three dismissed, Justice Minister resigned over Polish prison death

    Three Polish justice officials were dismissed and another resigned on Tuesday amid the controversial suicide of a prisoner as Prime Minister Donald Tusk called for an investigation.

    The prisoner, Robert Pazik, was convicted for murdering the son of a wealthy businessman. Pazik was found dead, hanging from a bed sheet in his cell on Monday morning. Of the men convicted for the kidnap and murder of Krzysztof Olewnik, Pazik was the third to commit suicide.

    Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski resigned amid 'political and media hysteria,' and said that Tusk thought a resignation was 'best in this situation.'

    Olewnik was held for a ransom of 300,000 euros (388,530 dollars), according to broadcaster Polish Radio, before being tortured and brutally murdered in October 2001. His family's lawyers had accused police officials of corruption and neglect of duty.

    The murder victim's sister has claimed the prisoners were murdered to stifle the emergence of further details in the case.

    Cwiakalski said he didn't feel at fault, but added there is such a thing as 'political responsibility.'

    The head of the country's prison service, the national prosecutor and the vice-minister of justice will also be dismissed, Tusk said later on Tuesday. He added that a commission should be called to investigate the death.

    'The matter calls for an explanation not only in the sense of justice,' Tusk said, 'but the public also has the right to fully access the information, so that there's no dark mystery hanging over this matter.

    Politicians react to Cwiakalski resignation

    In a related story, President Lech Kaczynski has received the news of the resignation of Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski with contentment.

    Cwiakalski decided to resign, Tuesday morning, in relation to the suicide of Robert Pazik, the third murder to commit suicide in prison of Krzysztof Olewnik, the son of a wealthy Polish businessman.

    The President's Chancellor Michal Kaminski, says that Kaczynski had reservations towards Cwiakalski from the very beginning of his appointment after the general election of 2007 and added that "at last the Prime Minister [Donald Tusk] agrees with the President and has recalled Cwiakalski."

    Kaminski emphasized that the circumstances of the resignation have presented the legal authorities in an unfavourable light. The sister of the murdered man questioned whether it was possible that three men would commit suicide in the same case and wondered whether someone was desperate to cover up further evidence emerging.

    Due to the suspicious deaths occurring on the watch of the justice minister he felt that his position was untenable.

    Cwiakalski, who met Prime Minister Tuesday morning to tell him about his decision, said cooperation with Donald Tusk was fine and the PM received his resignation "with understanding." According to Cwiakalski, Tusk found the Justice Minister's resignation the best solution.

    "Politicians are like sappers: they can commit a mistake only once, but I don't feel guilty (?)," said Cwiakalski.

    Other parties have commented on the resignation.

    Waclaw Martyniuk, a member of the Left alliance, said that the minister's decision is at least in some part a marketing or PR exercise by the government to fend off further criticism.

    "I would be surprised if Civic Platform had not sacked Cwiakalski if he hadn't resigned," said Martyniuk, hoping that the case will be looked into anew by a new group of prosecutors and judges. The Left Democratic Alliance calls for more details to be released about the three suicides.

    Zbigniew Cwiakalski will continue to head the Ministry of Justice until his resignation is signed by the President and Prime Minister, which may take a few days.