These are my raw notes from watching this video, which lasts a little over 1-1/2 hours.
Ania lives in Poland, in the town where Catherrine the Great was born in 1729, and she has a YouTube channel, Through the eyes of. As she says, she is not a native English speaker so I cannot guarantee how accurately I've "transcribed" what she said.
The Duran is Alex Christoforu (AC) and Alexander Mercouris (AM).
AC: Discussing the general collapse happening in Europe and all over the world it seems.
AM: Poland, without fully understanding it, is becoming something of a frontline state, a disturbing thing for any country to be. Poland has done so well in so many ways over the past 30 years. Following period of economic turmoil in 1980s, there was an economic upswing in 1990s. Like the UK, Poland is finding itself now tied into a system that is pulling everyone down. Thinks "globalization" did not put us in as much control as we imagined it would; globalization linkages, when they start to break down, are very bad for everyone.
Western assumptions about the success of the sanctions starting out and where we are now. Poland came through 2008 economic crisis so much better than some of the more established economies. Doesn't know economic situation in Poland now; know it's under a lot of pressure, that it's become like transit corridor for refugees with some of them staying there.
Ania: Grew up in Communist Poland. Remembers the situtation in 1981, remembers the Chernobyl explosion; remembers the change in the system ("questionable how much the system has changed"), what took place at those roundtable negiations in 1989. Spent last 17 years in US. Grew up having politics discussed at the table but put aside politics in the US until about 3 years ago. Poland has changed a lot since she left it, saw the changes whenever she visited, even last year before the SMO, it felt good, she was proud, a good energy there.
Came back in March the same day Kamala Harris was visiting, saw the cavalcade driving to the presidential palace. Decided she needed to watch KH speech in English and in Polish. The situation in Poland has changed drastically since the SMO started. Re: # of refugees have entered and left Poland so far - On a sidenote there was a scandal about Ukrainian and Polish border officers letting military age Ukrainians enter Poland "but not for free." Her town on very, very west side of Poland so haven't seen huge numbers of refugees there. But went to Krakow, much closer to Ukrainian border.
4,090,000 refugees entered Poland since Feb 24th. So far about 1.98 million left - these numbers are inexact because some of these are registered here to receive financial support, they kind of go and come back. Yesterday July 18th, 24,300 have entered.
What the Polish government has done in the beginning: provided free transportation, free medical care, received priority applying to school and for medical care (moved to front of line). Each refugee with children received $109 per child; for perspective the pension for those who've worked the majority of their lives and reached retirement age is $260 to $370.
AM: these numbers are staggering. Immigrants flowing in has been extremely politically sensitive in the US (border wall) and in the UK (fed into Brexit) yet the numbers they saw pale in comparison to these #s for Poland. Q re total population of Poland - around 40 million. So you have this large # of people passing through, many of them staying and getting these enormous benefits which must be a huge drain on Polish government finances while causing stress to the health care and social welfare systems. What are the people in Poland saying about this?
Ania: at first, enormous sense of compassion for people escaping from a war. But many of the refugees were from Western Ukraine, which wasn't impacted by the SMO. Big # of them were not poor judging from the cars, the designer clothes, etc. After things settled, the psychological issues between the people started to be more obvious - there's a certain attitude that Zelensky gives off, of entitlement: give it to me, I need this, this, this and this. Not all the refugees but there is a big portion of the refugee population that has the same attitude, being demanding and being difficult - for free, for free, for free. What they were being provided for free I believe ended on June 1st and there may be more of them leaving. Polish people are not as compassionate as they were in the beginning.
The change in approach (attitude?) came from the real life situation. Not everyone but a lot of the older population in Poland really financially struggling and the government isn't helping them.
AM: only a few months ago there was this crisis on the border with Belarus, people coming from the Middle East mainly, trying to enter Poland and vitriolic criticism of Poland in the West (presumably denying them entry); and previously when Angela Merkel invited millions of refugees from all sorts of places to come to the EU and Poland made it clear it wasn't going to participate in it. And now we have this total reversal on Poland's part, and what you're describing (in terms of the scope) is almost unknown in the rest of the West, it's not being covered like their past refusal to take in refugees was, numbers of people coming in that we would never experience in Britain.
Ania: see two different realities co-existing at same time. One is the use of celebrities and influencers to promote a certain narrative, the flags, etc. Then we have the regular people, the citizens, who are experiencing a different reality as they deal with the effects of this. In the beginning the Ukrainian flags were everywhere, to the point of Polish people saying, "but this office, this institution, is Polish; we are in Poland." You see Ukrainian flags randomly now.
A few weeks ago was the anniversary of the massacre in Volhynia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacres_of_Poles_in_Volhynia_and_Eastern_Galicia; "The peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943"). This is a very difficult subject for both sides. Started reading the comments on various YT channels covering this historical event; saw the awareness and the disapproval and thought they are finally opening their eyes.
AM: not so long ago this history was well-known and discussed. We knew about these auxilliary battalions (have to choose my words very carefully), it was absolutely routine history about WWII, about who was doing various things, esp. in Poland, where the guards for many of the camps in Poland came from (Ukraine) and what some of these people did to Poles and some of the rhetoric they used about Poles.
Now in the West, we're required to forget all of that. You can't talk about it anymore. But in Britain we're very far away from these events, but for Poland, this is one of the biggest parts of your recent history.
Ania: Don't want to give wrong impression about how I feel about Ukrainians, a lot of them came to Poland in 2014, and they are incredible, hard-working people so my comments are not for all Ukrainians. My Grandmother was born in Prussia in 1903 before Poland existed. Growing up I had to re-learn history; two different history books. Learned one way and a few years later was told, forget that book, this is the right history. But we have to learn history from scratch, it's manipulated, many lies, "the winner writes the history books." I think after the Soviet Union took care of the events that happened in Volhynia, those people were sent to Siberia. And after, they went back to Poland and they created certain organizations - [Ania said something about relocations], "same that happened with Argentina and I'm not going to use the N-word [i.e., Nazi]"
Coming from many years spent in US, understand American politics more. Large numbers of Poles still look up to US, maybe as I used to to some extent, and this is where problem lies because there's a certain formula of thinking, certain belief systems, that is the schooling system, the programming.
AM: Q about economic situation. You mentioned the pensioners, are you also dealing with the inflation crisis.
Ania: doesn't have numbers but inflation is highest it's been in 30 years. What you see when you look it up is not necessarily the reality, the price on the product is the reality. Main electric company in Poland, Peganiga (sp?), announced a few days ago that Poles should expect electricity bills to rise 300%. Gas prices up, everything up. What some people don't consider is the average salary of the citizen compared to the rising price. Average salary in Poland very different than in UK, Switzerland, etc.
AM: How does government justify this. You can find lots to criticize with Law and Justice (party in office) but its primary appeal was that it looked out for people. They presented themselves as supporting families and living standards. (AM: a commenter said the inflation in Poland is 16%; Ania: which is like 32). Does it not worry them that their pitch is so contrary to the outcomes?
Ania: Tusk (now in Brussels?) used to be leader of other party; that one or L&J - they all need to go. People don't agree with what they're doing but not everyone verbalizing that. I think that by the end of the year Morawiecki [PM] will be gone, don't know about the president.
AM: what we're seeing across the West: you have parties, you change one, you get the other, there's no difference. In the UK we have a very stable political system, it's been like this for a very long time with the Conservative and Labour parties. Roots back to the 19th century, even earlier for the Conservatives. Very difficult to break through. Is there more chance of this in Poland? There's more evidence in their history of a willingness to break with established power.
Ania: Believes in Polish spirit, that when their back is against the wall they will do what they see as right. Don't know how far they will have to be pushed to see it now.
AM: Has seen this spirit in the Polish literature he's read. There are many Polish immigrants in London and his impression is that the education level in Poland is still very high, much higher than in the rest of West Europe. Asked about the coal and said miners played a critical role in the formation of the British Labour movement and British society right up until the 1980s. Thinks that one of the reasons we hear so much about the things we need to do to save the environment and close down all the coal mines is because those miners had a cultural and historical and political importance that was very inimical to the political powers, not just on the Conservative side but to the power of the Labour party. In 2019 elections the coal mining areas voted overwhelmingly Conservative and voted previously overwhelmingly Brexit; this was a repudiation of the Labour Party they had founded. The Labour Party had turned its back on the miners and the coal industry and denigrated everything they had stood for and once represented in Britain.
Ania: remember a holiday from when she was growing up, think Dec. 8th, celebrating the patron saint of miners. Doesn't know how many mines still exist but about the recent act that Duda signed into law - that depots that sell coal for $195 what costs them $600 (at a loss), and wait 9 months or so to be compensated by the government.
Poland has enough coal to last them 500 years, so they have the resources. But PM recently ordered the purchase/import of 4.5 million tons of coal [see
https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/poland-boost-coal-imports-subsidies-amid-russia-sanctions-2022-07-18/ - doesn't say where it's to be imported from]. A friend pointed out that coal is going from Colombia to Turkey (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombia%E2%80%93Poland_relations). Russian coal. Because of the sanctions.
AM: the sanctions are creating a whole network of middlemen and corruption, at the same time that domestic coal industnies are being completely run down. We see this in Germany, where the great coal basins in the Ruhr have been closed. Poland, as you point out, has all the coal it needs. Britain has a lot of coal but we can't have that anymore, we have to have other types of energy when in fact, we're buying Russian coal and pretending it comes from Colombia. Are the coal communities in Poland as angry about this as they are in the UK?
Ania: don't know if they even know about it, there's a lack of political awareness for so many people. The friend who told me about the Colombia-Turkey coal deal, her husband is making a lot of money from this.
AM: Q about foreign policy and Ania's comment about Poland's relationship with its neighbors. I think Poland greatly underestimates its importance, its ability to shape events in Europe because of its location and cultural depth but it's playing a poor game. One gets the sense Poland is on bad terms with Germany, it's on terrible terms with Russia, it's relationship with Hungary not as good as it was, lots of issues with the EU (my sympathies are with Poland). Is there a debate in Poland about foreign policy? Do people talk about it, or are they only talking about being afraid of Russia (and one has to acknowledge that
Poles have historic reasons for being concerned about Russia)?
Ania: just from her talking with people, watching YT coverage. They were poking Germany about tanks; poking Norway about money from selling oil or gas. One thing is clear:
Russia bad, Ukraine good. There's a big number of people in Poland with awareness but problem is cognitive dissonance, people not wanting to face the truth. They're not in favor of so many refugees but "you have to make Russia pay". They aren't even open to hearing any evidence that may contradict what they think. I think every country should focus on their strengths, their resources, their uniqueness; strengthen this, nurture this, protect this. Yes, there's a dark history with the Soviet Union but every country has this.
AM: Britain has a lot of dark pages in its own history. You don't speak about this, especially among the political class. Totally agree about each country playing to its strengths, we need the diversity, but the EU hates that, it wants a homogenized Europe.
Ania: hearing from people why they still approve of the EU - "because EU is good, they build the highways since we joined, put money into this and this and this". She asks, "who pays for this, Greece? Cyprus?" People don't have common sense or knowledge or logic. So we have good highways from Krakow to Warsaw but our farmers have to get rid of this and this.
AM: in Greece we went through the same pattern. Grew up in Greece under a dictatorship; was a child when I left there in teh 1960s - events that happened in my early childhood that were very traumatic and made me nervous about going back to Greece. Went back in mid-70s and it was still the country of my childhood.
Went back in late 1980s and it was transformed - because we had joined the EU. It was exactly as you said. Looked to be booming and it went on for a very long time, and then it became clear the boom itself was built on sand. It exacerbated the corruption problems that were always there. And we discovered the money the EU had invested in Greece came with some very tough conditions. But it did buy within Greece a client base that we
still have that remains very vocal and very powerful and which controls the media in Greece.
Q about the media in Poland, I get the sense it provides a narrow perspective that doesn't reflect the diversity of views of the Polish people. Remembers that during the Communist era, Poland had it's official media but an enormous underground alternative media.
Ania: I don't own a TV by choice, haven't for 12 years, so I'm not watching Polish media at all. Understand there is enormous suppression of the truth, heavy pressure on those who
say how things are; there are YT channels I watch, incredible people, very committed, do a lot of research. One person had two channels removed recently, one of the channels he'd had for 13 years or so.
AM: what's position of the church in Poland? Know historically Polish people had an attachment to their church as we had with our church in Greece.
Ania: difficult question. Because I was coming across so much disturbing information about what the church was and still is [possibly referring to the child sex abuse scandals?]. Separated self because I don't support anything that brings suffering, not
Jesus and God but certain organizations that are run a certain way.
AC: are people in Poland aware how close to war they are with Russia? And do people think they could engage in a conflict with Russia because of the media misinformation?
Ania: Because of what has been presented in the media. For a big part of Poland, Russia represents danger. People still perceive Russia as the Soviet Union.
AC: Q to both - do you think anything can stop the looming collapse? Both say nothing can. AM: it would require a level of political leadership that isn't there, the political system cannot produce the kind of leadership that would be needed to turn things around. The forces pushing us in this direction are so strong now that if a person who could lead us out of it emerged, these forces would destroy them.
AC: chat question about a book by Olga [couldn't catch name] that says Polish people hate Americans.
Ania: some do. Ania talks about Biden's visit and speech - I was suffering; when I heard people clapping I thought, "who is clapping for this?" Having come from the US I know that a
majority of Americans do not think Biden won the election. So there are people who don't like the US but many who still think, "Oh, the US!"
AC: chat Q about Europeans voting for their own enslavement.
AM: everywhere you go in Europe you find dissatisfaction and anger and I suspect a critical mass of people are opposed to what is being done. The problem is they have no political vehicle or electoral vehicle to change things; not a question of people voting but of that vote becoming meaningful. We went through that enormous battle to get Brexit done and we already see how it's been eroded, which creates disillusionment and bitterness. Parenthecially, yesterday Boris Johnson in a speech in the House of Commons used the term Deep State in a routine way, as if its existence was an unchallenged truth.
Ania: the problem is, you get rid of these leaders and then what? What is the vision?
AM: exactly the problem in the UK. We've got a present that's intolerable but no alternative to put in its place.
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