We are surprised to hear that in their recent anti-immigration video, Britain First calls for support from the Poles. We refuse to be politically exploited by Britain First, an organisation with a long history of trying to gain political influence by defaming and vilifying the Polish immigrant.
We, the Polish citizens, have the right to live in the United Kingdom as a result of democratic decisions made by the majority of voters during the EU referenda in both Poland and the UK. Despite of this, many of us had to face negative stereotypes and discrimination after moving to the UK- we will stand together with those who unjustifiably face it now.
We are pleased that after the ragingly ignorant use of a picture of a fighter plane from the No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron in the BNP’s anti-immigration leaflets, Britain First members attempted to educate themselves a bit on the Polish culture and history. Let us continue and add a few more facts to widen the picture painted in their video.
The Battle of Vienna
The battle of Vienna was not a battle between good and evil (surprise: history is not like the Lord of the Rings), a true battle between Christian Europe and the Islamic world, but a battle between neighbouring countries over land and influence: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Habsburg Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations on one side and the Ottoman Empire on the other. Christian countries such as England or France did not take part in the battle.
During this time, Poland was influential and prosperous; it was also strongly multicultural: Polish nationals were only about 40% of the people living in the Polish and Lithuanian Commonwealth, with a large proportion of Lithuanians, Ruthenians, Jews and Germans, but also Armenians and Tatars. Poland was also a home to about twenty thousand Scottish and English families who needed asylum from religious discrimination- from the 16th century, Polish law guaranteed religious freedom and equality of citizens of all faiths. Even Britain First points to this period of multiculturalism and religious freedom as the time of Polish greatness.
Currently, about twenty thousand Polish citizens declare themselves as Muslims. They are mostly of Tatar origin and live in the region of the villages Bohoniki and Kruszyniany. Both of these villages were gifts from Jan III Sobieski, who led the victorious Battle of Vienna, to Tatars who served in the Polish army. Tatars have a long history of supporting the Polish war effort – starting from the Late Middle Ages and the famous Polish victory in the Battle of Grunwald to modern times – and the Tatar cavalry was a prototype of the famous Polish light cavalry, the Uhlans. Shortly before World War II, the Tatar minority collected money to buy land and build a mosque in Warsaw, but in the light of the upcoming war, the money was unanimously donated to the Polish National Defence Fund.
Christian values aka “A new command I give you: Love one another”
If you refer to Poland as a Christian country, it is worth remembering that the majority of Poles are Catholics. The Pope, who is the head of the Catholic church, washed the feet of several refugees and called for compassion towards those in the need of help during the Easter celebrations. Further, unlike the Anglican Church lead by the Queen, the Catholic church is multinational, and the separation of Church and State is declared in the Polish Constitution. Quoted by Britain First, priest Jacek Międlar, has been banned by the congregation he belongs to from making public appearances and statements because of his intense political activity and very non-Christian hate-speech, and the congregation stated very clearly that it “does not support any form of nationalist movements”.
In the photo: Tatar Uhlans from Grodno area – soldiers of Polish Army in 1919.