Poland’s homophobic Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski — the identical twin brother of Polish President Lech Kaczynski — was outed as a homosexual in major Polish media last week in the midst of a political crisis that threatened to cause his government’s downfall.
Poland’s second-most important newspaper, Rzeczpolita, published documents — some only recently declassified, and some that were leaked — from the files of the Polish Secret Service that discussed Prime Minister Kaczynski’s homosexuality. As part of an investigation, begun in 1992, of right-wing political parties that, the documents said, “could threaten democracy,” a Secret Service department then headed by Colonel Jan Lesiak reported, “It is advisable to establish if Jaroslaw Kaczynski remains in a long-term homosexual relationship and, if so, who his partner is.”
Jaroslaw Kaczynski was appointed prime minister in July 2006 by his brother, the president. Both Kaczynski brothers, known as the “Terrible Twins,” are notorious for their public homophobia, and Jaroslaw has proposed banning gays from teaching in the schools.
“Now all Poland knows that the Polish Secret Service was looking for Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s boyfriend,” a noted gay activist, Lukasz Palucki, one of the organizers of this year’s successful Warsaw Gay Pride March, told Gay City News from Warsaw.
The Secret Service documents discussing the current prime minister’s homosexuality were later published by the country’s leading daily, Wyborcza Gazeta, as well. TVN24, a commercial TV network, also ran a report.
Then, also last week, former President Lech Walesa repeated on Polish television a crack about the current prime minister’s homosexuality that he had made 13 years before — when, in an interview on the Polish public TV network TVP1, he had said that the Kaczynski twins had come to his birthday party, and that “Lech came with his wife and Jaroslaw came with his husband.”
On October 14, appearing on Polish commercial TV network TVN’s “Teraz My” program, Walesa — asked by the program’s anchors, Tomasz Sekielski and Andrzej Morozowski, about what he had said about Jaroslaw in the much earlier broadcast, reiterated his remark.
“Jaroslaw Kaczynski was also on the same TVN broadcast this time, but he was very quiet!” Palucki told me.
This double outing of Jaroslaw Kaczynski came just as the one-year-old Kaczynski government was in the middle of a political crisis that began last month, when the prime minister suddenly ousted the ultra-nationalist Samoobrona (Self Defense) Party — and its leader, Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Andrzej Lepper — from the three-party governing coalition led by the Kaczynskis’ PiS (Law and Justice) Party.
Without the Self Defense Party, the government no longer had the votes to defeat a no-confidence motion in Parliament, which, if it passed, would have meant new elections. However, after secret negotiations, this past Monday Lepper was re-appointed to his previous posts and Self Defense rejoined the restored governing coalition, which is now only one vote short of a parliamentary majority. The hush-hush deal with Lepper’s Self-Defense appears to have forestalled snap elections that had been expected this coming November.
Following corruption scandals, however, the Kaczynski government’s popularity has fallen to an all-time low in the polls, and their ultra-conservative coalition is now trailing the main opposition party, Civic Platform, which is also conservative, though much less homophobic.
Following the revelations of the Secret Service documents, knowledge of the prime minister’s homosexuality was so widespread that politicians were joking about it in public. At a press conference during the political crisis, ousted Deputy Prime Minister Lepper told a press conference, “I wanted to see Mr. Kaczynski, but he had no time for me. Who am I? Some girl who would like to date him? If he dates any!” Lepper’s pregnant jab at the prime minister’s sexuality caused an outburst of laughter among the assembled journalists.
Up until last week, “Polish media haven’t been very open about Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s sexuality,” gay journalist Michal Rolecki, of the Web site Gay Poland.pl, told me from Warsaw. “I have heard it said there is a ‘conspiracy of indulgent silence.’ Some allusions have appeared now and then.”
For example, Rolecki related, “earlier this year, the well-known Polish journalist Mikolaj Kunica recorded an interview with Wojciech Jasinki, a government minister and long-time friend of Jaroslaw, for TVP-1′s Wiadomosc news program. Kunica was widely reported in the Polish press to have asked about their social life when they were younger. Jasinki said they liked to have a party — to dance and drink. Kunica then asked if they dated girls, to which Jasinki replied that he did, but ‘Jaroslaw — never.’”
This segment of the interview was never broadcast. Marzena Paczuska, editor of the Wiadomosc program, ordered the segment on girls to be cut, but Kunica refused and was supported by Robert Kozak, the head of news at TVP-1, who overruled the decision. The matter then went to Maciej Grzywaczewski, the head of TVP-1, who supported Paczuska’s original decision. He then suspended Kunica and subsequently fired him, saying the material was ‘aggressive, full of emotion and anti-governmental.’”
Still, Rolecki told me, Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s homosexuality “has been quite obvious to the general public ever since Walesa’s original televised comment. But you must bear in mind that sex still remains a considerable taboo in Catholic Poland. Some three-quarters of Poles say that that sexuality is a private thing not to be discussed in public. For example, we have never had a sex scandal related to government, even though everyone knows that the president and the home secretary regularly visit female brothels.”
Prime Minister Kaczynski, 56, is a bachelor who still lives with his mother in a house filled with an extraordinarily large number of cats — and The Times of London reported after his brother appointed him prime minister that “the views of the new prime minister and the president are so similar that they often finish each other’s sentences. The only way to distinguish them is by a small mole to the left of Lech Kaczynski’s nose and the cat hairs on Jaroslav Kaczynski’s clothes.”
Jaroslaw is considered the craftier of the two brothers, and the dominant political strategist.
Known as “the Lesiak files,” the Secret Service documents discussing the current prime minister’s homosexuality date from a time when the Polish Secret Service was the direct heir of the old Communist secret police, and its personnel in the early ’90s still consisted largely of people who had worked in the agency prior to the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. Walesa, who served as president from 1990 to 1995, was in office during these investigations of political parties commanded by Colonel Lesiak — which, Rolecki said, “took place when Walesa decided to get rid of the Kaczynski brothers, who had been his counselors, from the presidential palace because they uninterruptedly plotted and set his other advisers against one another.”
“What remains unclear,” Rolecki added, “is who ordered the investigation and infiltration of the right-wing political parties,” which the Lesiak files indicated “could be planning a coup d’etat.”
“Was it Walesa?” asked Rolecki, “who was well aware of how unstable the Polish right wing is and how authoritarian the Kaczynskis can be? Was it the government at the time, which was a centrist government? Or was it just a natural course of events as the Secret Service relied on ex-Communist personnel who naturally felt the urge to spy on the right wing? I’m afraid we’ll have to wait until all relevant documents are declassified for the full answer.”
Even as Prime Minister Kaczynski’s homosexuality was being outed in the press and on television, senior officials of his government continued to spew homo-hate.
On October 14, the vice minister of education, Miroslaw Orzechowski, was asked by an interviewer for the daily Wyborcza Gazeta about the firing of Miroslaw Sielatycki, director of the Polish National Teacher Training Center, dismissed in June for having distributed to schools a manual on how to teach tolerance, prepared by the Council of Europe (of which Poland is a member country). The manual included material on non-discrimination against homosexuals and the rights of same-sex couples.
“This is the most drastic form of lies — that two individuals of the same sex can have a relationship,” Orzechowski told the newspaper. “I mean, it does happen, but you cannot legalize it because it ruins our civilization.”
Asked by the interviewer, “Where is the space, then, for tolerance of difference?” the vice minister replied, “Oh, the world used to manage without tolerance and it will keep on going without it. We cannot have a couple of maniacs deciding the fate of our civilization.”
The manuals, which included teaching tolerance of homosexuality, he said, “have been locked up, and will not be distributed any further.”
In a separate interview four days earlier, the new head of the National Teacher Training Center, Teresa Lecka, had told Wyborcza Gazeta, “The school’s role is to teach the distinction between good and evil, between beauty and ugliness… The school must show the drama, the emptiness, and the degeneration that homosexual practices lead to… Active homosexuality is a practice that is contrary to human nature. Polish schools should prefer good patterns of behavior that lead to family relationships.” Teaching about homosexuality, she said, must show “the limits of freedom for young people.”
Both these senior Polish officials were appointed by the Kaczynzskis’ ultra-homophobic minister of education, Roman Giertych, head of the Catholic nationalist, gay-baiting, anti-Semitic League of Polish Families party, the third member of the Kaczynskis’ right-wing governing coalition.
U.K. Gay News reported today that the government has introduced a new inheritance tax law that discriminates against same-sex couples.
Despite the officially encouraged climate of homophobia in Poland, the country’s gays continue to assert their identity. For example, Poland’s first-ever Queer Film Festival, entitled “A Million Different Loves” — a weeklong event that includes a conference on “The Politics of Body and Desire in Audio-Visual Culture” — opens in the city of Lodz on October 25. Gay-themed films from Turkey, Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, the Philippines, Canada, Austria, Hungary, and the U.S. will be among those shown at the festival, which is being held in cooperation with gay groups in Leipzig, Germany. For information on Poland’s Queer Film Festival, click here.
Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article appeared October 19, 2006. He wrote the article for Gay City News, New York City’s largest gay weekly.