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And finally...

18th December 2006
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Last year saw hunky plumbers and political potatoes battle for space on the front page with dinosaurs. Warsaw Business Journal takes a lighthearted look at some of the more bizarre events to make the headlines in 2006.

Looking after your plumbing

January saw the rise and fall of a hunky plumber on posters around the nation.To counteract the negative reaction to Polish workers entering France, officials in a Polish tourist office in Paris devised an ad campaign featuring a beefcake Polish manual laborer. The director of the Polish Tourist Board, Andrzej Kozłowski, took the plan a step further, and thus the pin-up plumber was born. One Piotr Adamski fitted the bill as the face and body of the 'Polish Plumber' ad campaign and the response from French females was overwhelmingly positive. The Polish Embassy in France was said to be delighted by the success of the campaign and according to statistics, French tourism to Poland increased. Whether or not this was due to the plumbing services on offer is another matter.

The irony of the campaign's success, however, is that Kozłowski, was later dismissed by Law and Justice (PiS). It seemed that the whole affair was far too risqué for the new conservative government.

Dinosaur chums

Far more sensible to some was Maciej Giertych's assertion that we lived alongside dinosaurs. According to Giertych, a Member of the European Parliament and the father of Education Minister Roman Giertych, Darwin was mistaken in his theory of evolution. Giertych, an avid supporter of creationism, believes that dinosaurs once upon a time co-existed with humans, announcing at a conference this year that "research shows that dinosaurs and man were contemporaries."

Giertych associates himself with what he refers to as the "growing evidence against evolution." He makes use of folklore as 'evidence' for his ideas, stating that "in every culture there are indications that we remember dinosaurs. The Scots have Nessie; we Poles have the Wawel dragon."

The best was yet to come, though, when he announced that Neanderthals still roamed the Earth, in the form of American boxers, who were described by Giertych as having "all the traits of Neanderthal man. These people [Neanderthals] are still among us. They are part of the human race, probably more prevalent once upon a time, but who still exist."

Giertych was not the only member of the League of Polish Families (LPR) to view evolution as a fraud. Mirosław Orzechowski, a member of LPR and, more disturbingly, the current Deputy Minister of Education, referred to the theory of evolution as "one of many lies" taught in Polish schools. It seems his boss disagrees, for the moment. Minister of Education Roman Giertych has stated that the theory of evolution would continue to be taught in Polish schools, "as long as most scientists in our country say that it is the right theory." When asked to comment on his father's musings about the world of Fred Flintstone, Roman Giertych offered the short response: "I am no expert. I am not a biologist."

One more round, Herr Führer

LPR suffered another major setback in public opinion this year, when photos emerged of members of Młodzież Wszechpolska (MW), a youth group associated with the party, raising their hands in a Nazi-style salute.

One picture caused a particular stir, as it featured a young Wojciech Wierzejski, vice president of LPR and a member of the Sejm, at a casual MW get-together, carousing with members who seemed to be giving the fascist salute. The public was informed, however, that this was all a big misunderstanding and that, in fact, they were not saluting, but ordering beer.

Mr Potato Head

Another foodstuff caused offense in 2006, this time involving the President and potatoes. Dubbed 'The Potato War' by the press, a diplomatic row began with Germany when Die Tageszeitung compared Lech Kaczyński to a potato and ridiculed his brother Jarosław on account of the fact that he still lives with his mother.

The newspaper branded Lech Kaczyński 'Poland's New Potato' and poked fun at the President's supposed lack of knowledge about Germany, suggesting that all he knew of Germany was "the spittoon in the men's toilet at Frankfurt airport."

The President, as well as other members of the Polish government, demanded a reaction from the German  government. Kaczyński subsequently did not attend a summit at which he was supposed to meet German leader Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac. A spokesperson for Kaczyński asserted that he could not attend the summit due to "stomach pains." Perhaps he found the potato puns diffcult to digest.

Candidate Kononowicz

This year's mayoral elections saw the rise to fame of Krzysztof Kononowicz. Kononowicz, the candidate for the 21st Century Podlasie electoral committee, in the race for the mayor of Białystok, became the talk of the town and of the country, when he read his manifesto in a thick regional accent, from a scrappy piece of paper, wearing the ultimate in granddad fashion - a patterned jumper reminiscent of communist times.

If elected, he promised that there would be "no banditry, no thievery, there will be nothing." His plans included building roads and opening factories, as well as "abolishing" alcohol and cigarettes.

The footage of his speech was viewed several million times on Youtube.com, and, despite him losing the election, many believe his claims to honesty, "unlike other politicians," are genuine. Koronowicz, who had been unemployed for 12 years and lives in a wooden hut, earned few votes but still managed to beat the local Self-defense candidate.

Political pociągi

Just when you thought Polish politics couldn't get any stranger, even the trains get a political make-over. In November, a train station in Włoszczowa, a town in Świętokrzyskie with a population of more than 10,000, was named after Przemysław Gosiewski.

The Law and Justice Minister, who has been a member of the Sejm since July, attended the opening ceremony of said station, on a grey and foggy day. Gosiewski station lies on the route of the express train connecting Warsaw with Kraków.


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