Who’s in Control?
It has been over a week since Warsaw hosted the NATO summit, however, regardless of how successfully the capital of Poland handled the challenge of preparing the event, comments and heated discussions about the nature of current Polish policy continue. Marcin Kierwański, PO (Civic Platform) MP, stated that as long as the Polish government avoids responsibilities for its actions, Poland will not be treated as a partner amongst other democratic countries. What is more, the MP believes that the fact that President Duda’s actions are constantly ‘supervised’ by the leader of PiS (Law and Justice) also affects the image and credibility of Poland. “The joint press conference with Barack Obama demonstrated that President Andrzej Duda is not able to free himself of Jarosław Kaczynski’s influence,” Kierwański continues. The MP reiterated that during the summit, the US President clearly stated that NATO is not just a military alliance, it is also a community with democratic values and Poland needs to share these values, which are the foundation of the organisation. “If Poland is to remain an example of democracy for the rest of the world, there is still more work to be done regarding the impasse surrounding the Polish Constitutional Tribunal,” Obama said. According to Kierwański, Duda is aware that the remarks made by Obama are ultimately true, but he is not able to free himself from Kaczyński. “After being lectured by President Obama, President Duda decided that it is better to remain silent and pretend that everything is fine,” the MP added.
Kraków – Former Capital City
Exactly 420 years has passed since the capital of Poland was moved from Kraków to Warsaw. In March 1596, the Polish king (of Swedish origin) Sigismund III Vasa moved his entire court to the region of Mazovia (Polish: Mazowsze), which in the late 16th century was already a centre of strategic importance and a rapidly developing area within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The decision to move the Polish capital was probably not only driven by the fact that the assembly of the Polish parliament (Polish: Sejm) was held that year in Warsaw, but also because of a fire that devastated Wawel Castle in Kraków. What is more, Warsaw is situated much closer to Sweden, the homeland of King Sigismund, who planned to retake the Swedish crown. “The year 1596 may well be considered the date of moving the capital of Poland from Kraków to Warsaw, but it in fact was a very long process, which lasted until 1609,” said Krzysztof Zwierz, of the Warsaw Research department of the Museum of Warsaw. “The king was simply going to participate in the Sejm and the fact that he remained with his court in Warsaw was due to certain political reason that took place at the time. Furthermore, the future capital of Poland was considered a thriving large city with more opportunities and well-developed trade routes,” he adds. Regardless of the potential that Warsaw had back then, it was Kraków that remained the official capital and the venue for the coronations of the majority of Poland’s kings, however, Warsaw gradually began to take over these diplomatic and political functions.
Animal-Free Circuses in Warsaw
The mayor of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz has issued a directive banning circus shows involving animals. On Tuesday, she announced her decision via social media. Warsaw is not the first Polish city to take this step. The mayor of Słupsk Robert Biedroń has previously refused to allow similar performances in his city and has been campaigning with Polish-American supermodel Joanna Krupa for other cities to follow suit. The authorities in Bielsko-Biała and Legnica also decided against using trained animals for entertainment, as such practices are becoming increasingly controversial. The authorities explain that Polish society’s growing awareness of and sensitivity to animal suffering make it necessary for circuses to adapt to changing attitudes. “Objections are being raised with regard to the objectification of animals in circuses, the taming [of animals] in order to force them to perform actions that are against their nature, and the failure to ensure appropriate conditions of life for any given species, as well as the shameful conditions in which the animals are transported and kept between shows and off-season,” reads the justification of Mayor Gronkiewicz-Waltz’s recent decision. Psychologists from the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) provide yet another argument against allowing shows involving animals, claiming that upon seeing the treatment of circus animals, children receive a message that there is nothing wrong with being cruel to animals.
Castle Square, Sigismund’s Column, the National Stadium or the Place of Culture and Science are just some of Warsaw’s key landmarks that can be admired in a new promo film by 4K Drone. The city has never before been seen before from this perspective. The magical film takes you on an unforgettable journey to the most important of Warsaw’s sites. The film puts Warsaw in a new light and the night views are truly spectacular. The creator of the film is a YouTube user by the name of Drone X Vision. He has a host of drone videos on his channel but ‘Warsaw by Night’ is by far the most popular, with the most hits. ‘Warsaw by Night’ is a kind of tribute to the Polish capital’s architecture. Drone X Vision has already announced that he is working on the second part of the film.
Warsaw Marathon Medal
The 37th PZU Warsaw Marathon will take place on 27 September, significantly disrupting travel in the capital city. Races like this inevitably paralyse the city and reheat the old debate between enthusiasts and opponents of organising such events in the capital. About 8,000 runners will cover the distance of 42,195 metres in the PZU race. For the first time in years, competitors will not run through the districts of Ursynów and Wilanów, but the route will take them through the districts of Saska Kępa, Gocław, over Świętokrzyski Bridge, into Powiśle district, Łazienki Park, the districts of Żoliborz, Bielany, the Warsaw Citadel, the New Town, Gdański Bridge, and Praga district. This means further problems in an already congested city; some streets will be closed for hours. Residents complain about a lack of information for those who have no choice but to try to and get to work or to a university. Bartosz Milczarczyk from the Municipal Council counters the criticism, saying that the authorities have strived to ensure that the relevant information is widely available. Regardless of how successful, or unsuccessful, this attempt has been, one thing is certain – the issue of marathons in the capital city remains as divisive as ever. Warsaw hosts two annual marathons, which is more than London or Berlin, and they are just the tip of the iceberg. Every year, the total number of races in the capital of Poland reaches about a hundred.
Reading is Sexy
As part of a national reading campaign, primary schools in Warsaw will receive PLN 400,000 for new books. The campaign is addressed to all public, private, and charter schools, and its aim is to promote reading among children and teenagers by subsidising school libraries. The funds are to be used in such a way that pupils’ expectations are met; in particular, the money cannot be used to purchase textbooks. While it is possible to use some of the money for books that pupils are required to read for school, the main goal is to provide children with books that they would like to read for pleasure. Consequently, it will be up to the pupils of a given school to decide what books are purchased. What is more, all subsidised libraries will have to remain available to children also during the winter and summer holidays. Depending on the number of pupils, schools can obtain up to PLN 2,000, provided that they cover 20% of the cost of new books. All of the 199 primary schools in Warsaw and over 1,100 more in Mazovian province have already applied for subsidies. The total cost of the campaign is PLN 20m; it will reach over 13,400 schools in Poland.
Developers argue that interest in luxury apartments is growing and there is no indication that this will change. After World War II, construction had to develop at an incredibly intense level in all of Poland’s cities, however no building before 1995 can be considered a luxury apartment, according to a KPMG and Reas report entitled: “The market for luxury real estate in Poland”. Now, however, such buildings are being constructed en masse. The development of exclusive apartments began in Warsaw in the second half of the 1990s triggered, among others, by a demand for such property by wealthy Poles returning from emigration and the new financial elite: bankers, businessmen, stars of stage and screen. The next period of the rapid development of the real estate market was a boom in the housing market in 2006-08. It was dominated by many foreign real estate companies moving into the Polish market and heralded a slew of luxury residential ‘towers’: Złota 44 and Cosmopolitan in Warsaw; Sea Towers in Gdynia and Sky Tower in Wrocław.