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Monday, 13 November 2017

President Andrzej Duda: Xenophobia, nationalism, anti-Semitism mean exclusion from our society

  |   "In our country there is no room for sick nationalism, in our country there is no room for anti-Semitism" the president stressed "In our country there is no room for sick nationalism, in our country there is no room for anti-Semitism" the president stressed

Honourable Members of Parliament,
Honourable Senators,
Honourable Mayor,
Honourable Mayors and Borough Leaders,
Honourable Voivode,
Honourable Councillors,
Dear Inhabitants of Krapkowice and the District gathered here,

Thank you very much indeed for this very warm welcome accorded to me. I must admit it is an immense joy and privilege to be the first President of the Republic of Poland in history arriving here. Before me, there has never been a President of the Republic of Poland present here in Krapkowice. I am very happy to be paying this visit, very happy indeed that it is taking place these days, directly after the commemoration of the 99th anniversary of the regaining of independence by Poland in 1918. After I have declared that we are now entering a very important year of observing the centenary of regaining Polish independence.

I am very happy because it is very important for me to make sure that this very year, the centenary year, I should meet my compatriots in a possibly greatest number of cities, towns and also villages. In the places where they live and where they celebrate the centenary of independence - the date which comes as so incredibly important one for all of us living in the Republic of Poland.

Thank you very much for the words, Mr Mayor, which you have uttered about Krapkowice, a Silesian town, which for centuries shared the fate of the whole Silesia. And this is a specific multicultural region where the Polish, German and Czech cultures overlap, the region which over centuries was attracting settlers also from other countries. Jews were coming here to settle down on this soil. This is a great history of this region, and of the people who live here.

In his address, the Mayor has underscored that nowadays you are building your prosperity together in the Republic of Poland, in Krapkowice, in your little homeland. And I wish to offer to you my warmest congratulations, for you are doing it with success, and this despite the obstacles encountered: the objectively existing ones and those more accidental. When I speak about obstacles, what I have in mind is that we, as Poland, for many years were consigned to stay behind the Iron Curtain, we could not develop our economy the way countries in Western Europe could. We were not able to benefit from such welfare, and, therefore, we have not achieved the level of prosperity that other countries have, like the ones which made use of the Marshall plan for instance.


But it took a lot of effort on the part of the Polish people, also the local people, to strive the way we did after 1989 to become part of a more prosperous world; also, here in Krapkowice where a large Silesian Leather Processing Plant was located, and was then - to put it bluntly - destroyed in the wake of economic transformation. Nowadays, this area is under reconstruction, in the effort to recover the potential represented here back then, also through supporting SME’s, as you do day in day out, also through setting up new businesses. And indeed, Silesia does demonstrate that there is a tradition lying dormant which always used to be there: the tradition of intense hard work, respect for property, and for things which were built.  Offering to you my warmest congratulations for what has been achieved, I also wish to thank you for the work done for Krapkowice, for your families but also for your Home Country: Poland.


Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we speak about accidental occurrences, we cannot forget about the flood which hit Krapkowice in 1997. Even today I have watched a film made by local residents of Krapkowice in which they recall the flood that happened back then: twenty years ago. Those developments, the voices and individual accounts, also of your neighbours, about  the situation which seemingly kept improving, and then  all of the sudden the wave of 10,5 m striking to destroy the town: deluging 350 houses and forcing an emergency evacuation of 130 persons. All of that was an accomplished fact, all of that unfolded here.

In the aftermath of such a dramatic catastrophe, the reconstruction of the town and of everything that was destroyed required hard work and a lot of time. And yet you have made it. It is because you are together and you form a community, in spite of the fact that you yourselves and your families have had very different experiences. Some of the inhabitants were born here on this soil, as was the case with their parents, grandparents, and their forefathers, but the vast majority of the people of Krapkowice and of the district came here as settlers after the war from the Borderland (Kresy) of the Second Republic of Poland. And they decided to link their fortunes and that of their families with this region. And it is on this soil that you have been struggling for decades to make success: your own, of your community, of your local governmental community, which ultimately is part and parcel of a greater Polish community.

Why do I accentuate this in such strong terms? Because the way you want to tap your potential, the potential available to you right here, speaks volumes about the magnitude of your work. Just a moment ago, as we were talking with the Mayor and with the Councillors, I admired the idea of building a new yacht port, harnessing the potential that presents itself, the potential offered by the Oder river, the beautiful river which chose to deal with such a heavy blow on the town 20 years ago. And, as a matter of fact, the river is the town’s great asset.  Nowadays we keep saying that modern cities and towns turn towards their rivers, even if they used to turn their back on them years ago. And it so happens with Krapkowice which also turn towards its river, the Oder river, and you build it in a joint effort, contributing also to the property of the Republic of Poland.


The reason I am telling you this is because I never ask anyone who comes to meet me, where he or she comes from. I never ask where his or her family comes from. I never ask if he or she belongs to the Polish nation or is of another nationality. My only question that I always leave open is the question whether one is a loyal member of our great community, Polish community of people living in the Republic of Poland -  the community towards whom the President of the Republic of Poland has only one great expectation and one request: that it should be loyal towards the Polish state, that they should be loyal citizens, loyal members of the Polish society. This is the only criterion.


I must tell you, Ladies and Gentleman, that I am grieved to see some other criteria being introduced in the Polish society. If one speaks about a Poland that is meant to be only for the Poles. From me, a Pole is the one who wants to work for Poland. For me a Pole is the one who wants Poland to be present on the map. For me a Pole is the one who wants Poland to be a strong state, the state which is able to satisfy the needs of its inhabitants. Such a person is a Pole in my view! It has no significance to me whether his or her father was a German, Jew, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Russian, or anyone else. For me what matters is his or her attitude towards the Republic of Poland today. And this is how I assess such a person, and this is for me a fundamental value in itself.    


The colour of one’s skin does not matter, for it is nobody’s choice, it is something that has been given. But what matters for me is one’s attitude. And therefore, I am extremely sorry that most recently in Warsaw at the Independence March, the joy of those who came to celebrate this splendid Polish day was shattered by the banners brought in by irresponsible people. The banners whose contents will never meet with approval among decent people in Poland. Because there cannot be an equal sign between patriotism and nationalism. These are two completely opposing phenomena and two completely opposing attitudes.  Patriotism is about love, the love of one’s home country, the love of your neighbour, the love of your compatriots, the love of all of them who desire happiness of the home country, and who desire success of all the residents of this country. Whereas nationalism is about a negative perspective, and about a vision following which this country is only meant for ourselves. And that is not true. This is a country for everyone who wants to live a just life, for everyone who wants to build this country. And this is indeed the basic criterion which is guiding the President of the Republic of Poland. And I can only emphasize and insist again on the words which I have uttered here in Krapkowice, for here they reverberate the strongest and here you do demonstrate that these words are translated into practise in Poland.


In our country there is no room or tolerance for xenophobia, in our country there is no room for sick nationalism, in our country there is no room for anti-Semitism. Such an attitude means an exclusion from our society. The people who behave this way are excluded. They represent an attitude which can only be termed “unworthy”. And this is something that I want to emphasize again, even if I have done so already. Apparently, there is never enough of such words.


Ladies and Gentlemen, there is one more thing I want to underscore as President: I am extremely sorry and deeply concerned, and it makes me revolt against the injustice done to us, the people living in Poland, and taking the right stance, when in many foreign media there is an attempt to make Nazis out of 40 thousand or 60 thousand of participants of the Independence March. Ladies and Gentlemen, in Poland people realize full well what Nazism is about. What hatred is about and what it means to slaughter people because of their nationality. 


The people who came to this land from the East, from the Borderland – the Kresy of the Republic of Poland, know it very well, for their families were murdered by the Nazis, they were witnesses of a slaughter or were slaughtered by people of another nationality because of xenophobia and hatred. And we, the Poles, know it full well. And I do believe, that all decent people living in the Republic of Poland see this as a profound lesson of history which was written with our own blood on territories of the Republic of Poland under occupation. Never again in history of mankind may such a situation recur. In this part of Europe, we all know it perfectly well. Perhaps there are some people in the West who do not understand it, but they should study the subject and seek to explain it.


Ladies and Gentlemen, let me thank you again. I do apologise for having used such a strong language. For using such a language as I came to see you with my first Presidential visit. But I do believe, that as President I should have said that, and you, coming from various backgrounds, but with your eyes fixed on the Republic of Poland, striving with all your might to build a fair and good Poland, one which will also be a reliable part of the European Union, drawing on everything that we jointly managed to achieve defeating the unjust system: communism, which pushed us to the margins of Europe, you understand me perfectly well.


And it is precisely such an attitude: insisting firmly on our cause that will lead us in the future to the achievement of Poland of our dreams, of our pursuits. Obviously, this is a grand ideal, the ideal which will probably never be accomplished in full. But who will resist pursuing ambitious goals? The way we were speaking about the Oder river, and about our ambition to make it fully navigable at full length. My reaction was: “This is an extremally ambitious plan to make it part and parcel of the transportation route within the Three Seas Initiative”. So that one can navigate up the Oder river, then across the channels further to the Czech Republic, and then who knows, further to the Danube river. Do they appear to be extremally ambitious goals? Yes, they are extremally ambitious. But there is no achieving of ambitious goals unless you set the bar very high. And I do believe that you, Ladies and Gentlemen, pursue such goals.


At this point, I would like to acknowledge you, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Mayor, the local authorities, for the family policy that has been pursued for years here, in the municipality of Krapkowice. I am very happy to see that for the first time ever since 1989 the authentic commitment of Polish Government helps to contribute to this policy which has been carried out by considerate and well-functioning local governments. This is achieved by means of a “Program 500+” and hopefully will be achieved by the Program “Accommodation+” which will be primarily targeting young families to offer to young people the opportunity to have a place of their own when they start a family. My words of thanks for a smooth realisation of the “Program 500+” go to the Mayor and the local government. It is vitally important to make the program happen as soon as possible. This was one of our major concerns, of me as a President, and of a Polish Government. Thank you for making it happen.


I am greatly indebted to you for your everyday work for the Home country, and for the meeting today. I am grateful that you have spared this afternoon, this evening to meet the President. I wish to thank the children for wearing such beautiful costumes and for their performances. Thank you for giving me such a warm welcome. And as far as Poland is concerned, may I have one more request? The point is that it should not be only myself as President who can look back at the end of his term look back and acquit himself well: “There have been some accomplishments”. The point is that we can state it together, all of us, towards the end of the centenary year: that something has changed for the better in our country and that this is the output of this century. I will greatly appreciate if this happens. Once again thank you for such a warm welcome.

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