Anna Weil (40), Labor migrant from Poland
“If you live in a country yourself, you see less clearly what is happening than when you literally look at it from a distance. Now that I have been living, working and living in the Netherlands for sixteen years, I see more and more how the rights of women and LGBTI+ are being violated in Poland. It fills me with horror. I am ashamed of my own country. And although I live 1200 kilometers from my childhood home, the issue of women’s rights still creates a rift in my private life. I don’t come home to Katowice very often anymore, with my friends, because the opinion about women’s rights and the protests divides our friends in two: those who support the women and those who disapprove of the women’s protests.
To me the protesting women are heroines, I am proud of them. At the same time, it makes me angry that they have to fight this battle. If I lived in Poland, I would have taken to the streets, I would have protested too. Now I want to make my voice heard in this way. My husband supports me in this. I think it is important to underline that, because it is not only women who are revolting in Poland. There are also men who fight for equal rights for women.
I don’t understand how a government wants to control who you can be in life. It shouldn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, or bisexual. In a developed and free country, this should never lead to discussion or inconvenience. But Poland is no longer a free country in that respect. The Catholic faith and government have become so intertwined that the will of the Church has become law. During communism, the church was a refuge, a safe place for the Poles who wanted to escape the coercive regime and lack of self-determination. The church and faith brought hope, but also ruined a lot. I’ll never forget that when I went to visit my grandparents as a little girl, I wouldn’t get food on Sundays if I didn’t go to church. When I look back on that now, I think: how is it possible. The word of the priest became the truth. And it still is, especially in the countryside and in small villages. The voice of the church resounds in the voice of government. We go back decades. For women and LGBTI+ people, the times of communism are revived, in the sense that they are being deprived of the freedom of self-determination.
I think the change may have to come from us, the migrant workers. We live in a society where men and women are more equal than in Poland.
I am sometimes asked what needs to change in Poland to prevent a two-caste society from developing, with women and LGBTI+ people as second-class citizens. I think the change may have to come from us, the migrant workers. We live in a society where men and women are more equal than in Poland. Where there are no gay free zones – how do you make it up! Where abortion is not prohibited. Where sex education is discussed openly in education. Where women feel safe.
I cherish the world in which I now live in the Netherlands. I cherish my freedoms and the opportunities I get. I cherish the tolerance. I wish that for all girls and women in Poland. That is why it is important that the migrant workers do not remain silent, but make their voices heard. Precisely because every day we experience how important it is to be allowed to be who you want to be. We can support women in Poland from abroad. They deserve our support. We should not expect anything good from the current government when it comes to equal rights for women. We can strengthen and mobilize the resistance of women in Poland from other countries in Europe, so that in the next elections in 2023 there will be enough votes for a new sound and a new beginning in Poland. The beginning of a country where tolerance and equal rights are written in capital letters instead of small letters in the margins. That’s what I stand for, that’s why I’m making my voice heard on this protest sign!”