Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, has whipped up a storm this week by making controversial statements concerning people who consider themselves to be Silesians.
The historical region of Silesia, most of which is now located in Poland, was at various points in time under the dominion of several different Germanic kingdoms.
Many were angered by a recently released PiS document on the “state of the nation,” which stated that declaring 'Silesianness' in a census “is simply a way of cutting off your identity from ['Polishness'] and probably the assumption of a camouflaged German option.”
The implication of this statement is that PiS thinks that those who declare themselves to be Silesian feel, de-facto, more German than they do Polish.
Queried about the passage at a press conference, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński didn't back off. He said that those who go even further, by claiming that there is a “Silesian nation” were, in his opinion, really declaring their Germanness, albeit it in a “camouflaged” way.
The PiS leader singled out the Silesian Autonomy Movement (RAS), and its leader Jerzy Gorzelik, as holding such views.
In response, Mr Gorzelik said PiS should consider changing its name to NPD – the name of a German neo-Nazi party.
“Kaczyński's party has reached the level of that nationalistic, German faction,” he said. He also said he wasn't offended by the accusations against him of Germanness because “Germanness is nothing bad.”
Mr Gorzelak stated, however, that what did offend him was that Mr Kaczyński was accusing those who identified with a Silesian identity as de-facto identifying with a German identity. There have since been calls for Mr Kaczyński to apologize to Silesians, but he has refused to do so.
RAS was created in 1990 and its stated aim is greater autonomy for the Silesian region. It also says on its website that Silesians have the right to declare Silesian nationality. It cites, by way of support, that in the ongoing census in the United Kingdom, it is possible to declare yourself a “Silesian” national.
In the last Polish national census, held in 2002, over 173,000 people declared themselves to be Silesian nationals.
From Warsaw Business Journal by Remi Adekoya
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