Australian Institute of Polish Affairs

The AIPA’s President Report

June 2020

Dear AIPA members and friends,

This report comes in a context of great uncertainty and sadness over the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus has already taken too many lives in Europe, the US and other parts of the world, despite the tireless efforts of health professionals. The year 2020 turned out to be nothing like anyone expected even though Australia has dealt with the pandemic very effectively.  Nevertheless, we are still in many ways confined to our homes, must adhere to the social distancing rules and will have to change out lifestyles drastically for the foreseeable future. Many of the AIPA’s planned events had to be postponed. We hope that we will be able to re-schedule the event to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the arrival to Australia of the Solidarity Migration Wave (possibly in April 2021).

The Covod-19 pandemic

The Covod-19 pandemic brought many challenges but has been an occasion to learn new things (social media, online communication) and re-new old good habits (home cooking and reading books). In my case – getting back to lektury from high school compulsory curriculum. I was acquainted with the Gombrowicz writing in the second year of my lyceum education. It was his Diaries. I believe it must have been a very abstract reading to me as I had no recollection of the content when I’ve recently immersed myself into the first volume following from Transatlantyk. It turns out the books perfectly reflect current political atmosphere in Poland and elucidate the behavioural motivations of the people in power as well as the broader society. I found Gombrowicz’s writing liberating in a way he explains ‘Polishness’, identity and patriotism with his postulates to ‘free yourself from the Polish form’ and ‘relax our submission’ to a specific variant of nationalism. All these national identity considerations come at the time of the National Reconciliation Week in Australia, the Black Lives Matter movement and reconciling historical injustices. It is also about understanding historical facts. Here, I must mention a powerful interview with the grandson of the perpetrator published in Newsweek Poland titled: Mój dziadek wydał Żydówkę, which I wholeheartedly recommend (Issue 21 May).

Presidential elections in Poland

Most of you have been following the worrying developments, including unconstitutional manoeuvres surrounding the organisation of the Presidential elections in Poland. Finally, it was confirmed that the Polish diaspora will be able to vote via correspondence. Indeed, the communication from the Embassy was swift and we have received our voting packs on 18 June via express post. I hope many of you were able to participate, as we know that a number of registered to vote in Australia doubled this year to 3620.

AIPA expanding on internet

One of my goals for this year was to refresh AIPA’s digital media strategy by improving our website and communicating through social media. I created AIPA YouTube channel which now features three presentations:

We have published three video recordings reflecting on Australia’s handling of the coronavirus in comparison to other countries (Janek Pakulski), in education (Gosia Klatt) and in economy (Tomasz Woźniak). These were directed toward the Polish audience, and were recorded in Polish.

AIPA and the media

Our engagement with the media has been excellent in the recent months with a number of AIPA members featuring as interviewees. Prof Jan Pakulski talked to Jacek Żakowski in Polityka on leadership qualities of current political elites (Issue 27 May). This was followed by a conversation with Prof Martin Krygier on the need to temper the powers of current governments (Issue 9 June). Two radio interviews were also recorded by radio SBS Polish Section with Dr Tomasz Woźniak from the University of Melbourne discussing current economic situation in Australia.

We have also intervened with a letter of protest following the Australian Story program on the Dustyesky choir aired on 25 May 2020 on ABC. The program has been promoted as a warm-hearted story embracing community spirit and the love of music, however there were deeper concerning issues including the use of the Soviet flag with the Soviet Russian Hammer and Sickle. In response to our letter the ABC producers explained that they were sorry that the program has caused any distress but stand by the decision to broadcast the story. We will post the full response from the ABC on our website.

I hope that current social distancing and travel restrictions will ease very soon, and that some AIPA activity will soon resume. I hope you all are staying healthy and safe.

I hope to see many of you soon.

Best Regards

Gosia Klatt

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