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 You are in: Front Page > Programmes > World Today > Euro Special
Euro Special

Antoni Libera

Antonio Libera

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To coincide with the launch of the Single Currency across 12 members of the European Union,
The World Today has commissioned seven short original works from leading European writers.

Poland has aspirations to join the European Union in 2004. Our essay from Poland comes from the writer, translator and stage director Antoni Libera.

Antoni Libera: The Polish View

The problem with Poland is that, like an uncertain pupil, she is easily swayed; she is apt too readily to assimilate the characteristics of whoever happens to be in a position of influence over her.

For over 120 years, from the end of the 18th century until the end of the World War I, she was divided, like Gaul, into three parts, each ruled by a different power: Russia, Austro-Hungary and Prussia.

In the 80 years since, she has experienced six years of Nazi occupation and 40 years of Soviet domination; and one might have expected that these almost 50 years, the most cataclysmic and traumatic in her history, would have swept away all trace of previous influences.

But this has not been the case: each of the three civilisations which influenced her before 1918 has left its mark, visible in local differences which persist to this day.

The North and West of the country are still better off economically, having assimilated German traditions. The South is better of culturally, for it benefited from the relatively liberal rule of Austro-Hungary. And the East and central parts of the country are still the worst off in every respect: for they belonged to Russia.

Russia, whether it was tsarist Russia, Soviet Russia or the Russia of today (this last still being something of an unknown quantity), has been the most harmful influence on Poland, pulling her downwards, stifling her development, setting her back culturally, economically, politically and in every other way.
Antonio Libera
And the Poles, while they have always rebelled against Russia's influence, have tended at the same time to assimilate her worst features: under her influence the country becomes disorganised and corrupt; morals degenerate; respect for the law disappears. Russia's influence on Poland has always been nefarious.

Poland is a Catholic country, the largest such among the Slavic nations; most of these are Orthodox, having adopted Christianity from Byzantium, while Poland took it from Czech.

And it is this, their belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, that distinguishes Poland and Czech Republic from the other Slavic countries and places them firmly within Western Europe. From this point of view Poland may be said to be a bastion of European civilisation in the East.

Membership in the European Union is crucial for her; it represents a vital opportunity to develop in the right direction, along with the rest of Europe, and to remain within those civilising Western traditions.

She must not be allowed to fall back under the influence of Russia. And it is surely also in Europe's interests to make sure that this does not happen, and to preserve and nurture Poland's traditional ties with Western European civilisation.

 Todays programmes

 More Essays
  Colm Tóibín
  Michèle Roberts
  Carsten Jensen
  Nico Helminger
  Antoni Libera
  Peter Schneider
  Manuel Rivas

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Related Links:
Antoni Libera biography
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