• Final farewell to Bronislaw Geremek
  • 22.07.2008

In pouring rain, then in beautiful sunshine Warsaw bid farewell to Professor Bronislaw Geremek, says Dziennik reporting on the funeral of the icon of the anti-communist opposition in Poland and one of the founders of the free Solidarity trade union, who died on 13 July in a car accident.

Press reviewed by Krystyna Kolosowska

The funeral ceremony was attended by the family, representatives of Polish political elites, friends and close associates of the late Professor Geremek and the people of Warsaw. Also present was the European Parliament head Han-Gert Poettering, writes Rzeczpospolita. The official ceremony did not eliminate feelings of emotion, says Gazeta Wyborcza. The dailies cite heartfelt tributes from mourners, among them former president Lech Walesa and the first legendary Solidarity leader. “I thank God for having been able to know you, for having been able to admire you and be your disciple,” Walesa said.

The daily Fakt says there is still hope that parts of the American anti-missile shield will be placed in Poland. We had a big row, now the parties are back at the negotiation table. Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski met in Warsaw with Washington’s envoy Daniel Fried. “It was a good discussion, which moved Poland’s and the United States’ viewpoints closer on the missile shield,” Sikorski is quoted as saying. Concrete decisions are not known, but Fakt suggests that the US is ready to make concessions and meet the key Polish demand – to equip the Polish armed forces with Patriot missiles.

The Warsaw daily Zycie Warszawy informs that Poland’s capital will be friendlier to foreign tourists before Euro 2012 championships. New signs in English will appear in the streets. Announcements on the metro stations will be read in Polish and English shortly. Zycie Warszawy describes the troubles five German tourists had in Warsaw when they wanted to exchange faulty city transport tickets. Why? Because there was no one at the ticket office speaking any foreign language. The Warsaw city tourism board is planning to publish information booklets. One – entitled “Fall in Love with Warsaw” – has just been published in … Japanese. Representatives of the board admit, however, that they do not expect masses of Japanese tourists for Euro 2012 and the emphasis is to be placed shortly on closer neighbors.

Poles, on their part, are determined to improve the nation’s command of English. According to a survey commissioned by Dziennik, over 90 percent want to introduce English language classes at primary schools, starting from grade one. The education ministry has so far favored the idea of teaching any foreign language, not specifically English. But many leading Polish figures believe that the ministry should not disregard the results of the survey. Presently, less than a half of primary school pupils have obligatory English classes. Twenty nine percent of Poles speak English, which gives them one of the last places in Europe.

Poles used to be masters of political jokes, even if the laughter was mixed with tears, says a historian interviewed by Rzeczpospolita. The Institute of National Remembrance, investigating Nazi and communist crimes has just published a bulletin on satire during communist rule, a time when laughing at and ridiculing the system was a way of fighting against it. In the 1940s and 50s, during Stalinist times, one could land up behind bars for telling political jokes, like that one: what is the biggest success of Soviet medicine? Lenin always alive, recalls Rzeczpospolita.