Men Kissing in Polish History

July 27, 2009

I was arguing (unsuccessfuly) that Pride Parades aren’t the best idea for promoting gay community in Poland. It doesn’t matter that they work just fine in other countries. In Poland parades are linked to communism. They are one of the many things that will never again be looked upon without negative connotations.

During the decades of communism several times a year there was a great parade, with people carrying flags, banners, balloons, and colourful scarfs.

For the most part they looked something like this, with people going there just because there always was someone there checking the list.

But in larger cities, like Warsaw, there were even special shows performed by artists on platforms. There was music and the communist youth sang joyful songs.

The idea was to show the proud and happy nation that the People’s Republic of Poland was.

Naturally people hated them yet back then, and they were glad when the parades ended. Especially the May 1 parade that no one could have avoided. Parades are passe. Anyone who wants to make a difference in Poland has to come with something more creative than that.

Marek Kotański had his Chain of Pure Hearts, Jerzy Owsiak holds the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, and city mayors celebrate all the main national days by organising concerts, polonaises, new records breaking, battle enactments etc etc. Do anything but don’t parade.

Who still parades in Poland? Communists on May 1, feminists on March 8, and gays on May 1 (out of all days!) in the years 2001-2003, and only since 2005 they moved it to later dates in May or June. Needless to say all three have very little support, and likely it doesn’t help that the only political party actively cheering both gays and feminists are the post-communists.

It seems rather obvious that the mental link that the majority of Poles (largely disinterested in the postulates of the three anyway) will make is going to be highly unfavourable. That’s what I was trying to explain to Pawel, who believes that Pride Parades are just the thing because they help in the West so well.

To my arguments he said:

OMG I would LOVE to see Stalin in drag, Brezhnev and Honecker kissing and waving rainbow flags… effeminate miners and farmers holding hands:) Rosa Luxembours with moustache… That would be so fun to watch such a communist parade! :)

Actually it’s not difficult to do, and I don’t think that Pawel would shock anyone if he used these pictures during the parades. After all the majority of Poles still remember the images very well.

Brezhnev and Honecker kissing:

although Brezhnev and Gierek look so much more romantic:

Stalin in drag, promoting gay marriage to boot:

It’s not as easy with Rosa Luxemburg. Either she linked moustache to Sarmatism, or nature didn’t want to cooperate, but I couldn’t find such a picture. Actually I think that lesbians find the idea of imagining them with moustache quite offensive, but what do I know.

Yet, nothing beats the farmer kissing his liberator – an image that Poles love!

Wikipedia gives this description to it:

Peasant kissing a soldier of the “Army of Liberation” on a Soviet propaganda poster issued after the joint Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland. According to Soviet propaganda, the Red Army entered Poland to liberate and protect the “Ukrainian-Belarussian brothers”. The text reads: “Our army is an army that liberates workers”, signed “J. Stalin”.

In other words, perhaps it’s worth considering that certain methods and images that in the West are interpreted in favour of gays will bring the exact opposite effect in Poland. And indeed it seems they do if one believes the opinion polls.

ETA: This post appeared to stir some emotions. People assumed that I wanted to criticise gays and prevent them from public appearance. It’s not the case. Read my other post where I try to explain why I think that the parades aren’t the best form of promotion. It doesn’t follow I’m against any promotion of gay culture. I’m just suggesting a better (more effective) one should be found.

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15 Responses to “Men Kissing in Polish History”

  1. island1 said

    Ingenious argument. Perhaps too ingenious. I wonder if you are really critiquing the effectiveness of gay pride parades or just going to any lengths to find reasons why they shouldn’t exist. Perhaps I’m being too cynical.

    Anyway, isn’t the whole hilarious men kissing thing just Russian – I’ve never seen Polish men kissing?

    Great video. I love the people carrying giant letters. Presumably they are the initials of trade unions or something but it looks like a surrealist parade of alphabet fetishists.

    • Sylwia said

      I don’t like parades, but I’d be all for street theatre or music spectacles if that helps.

      I think that blind copying of Western methods is too ingenious for us, because they come off as something different here. If I told you that all Brits should convert to Catholicism for the sake of independence wouldn’t you think me nuts? The majority of Poles see some Western ideas as something similarly ridiculous. The Polish internet is full of people comparing gays to communists. I didn’t make it up. I’m only trying to point out where the comparison may be coming from. IMHO gays should create a Polish model that would be free of negative connotations and acceptable to the religious Poles. In order to get gay civil union they will have to obtain the support of 20% of regular church-goers. I think it’s doable, but only if it’s done the Polish way.

      On the other hand they can of course keep going as they do now and nothing will change, but they’ll have the feeling of fighting windmills, and Poles like feeling this way. Only that, unfortunately, this will also help guys like Kaczyński, Giertych etc.

      The men kissing is a Russian custom, indeed, but Honecker was German and Gierek was Polish. For years people watched the kissing spectacle any time our country was paid a visit, which was quite humiliating. It’d be easier if one knew it’s what they normally do. Here though it was obvious that the guys who ruled our country couldn’t refuse kissing Russian dignitaries, although they wouldn’t do that in other circumstances.

      There were no independent trade unions, only various branches of the Party. The letters stand for the names of companies. Every factory, school, hospital etc had to send their own representation, who displayed the letters proudly. ;) It was a kind of fetish, self-indulgent anyway.

  2. scatts said

    Polish men kiss, but only when it’s pretty serious. I’ve been known to kiss my father and brother in law although not quite the French-tongued snog these pictures depict!

    • Sylwia said

      Within a family Polish men kiss, indeed, but on the cheeks, the way you might kiss your daughter. They wouldn’t kiss another man on the lips, just as no one kisses their kid like that. Well, if my uncle wanted to kiss me on the lips I’d freak out, even though it’d be a male-female thing.

  3. Pawel said

    OMG Island, thank god you’re there:) you always make me laugh!

  4. Malina said

    Well, I really dunno about the parades=communism argument. Here in Krakow we just had the Lajkonik parade, the students’ parade, the cyclists parade, the dragon parade, the Corpus Christi parade of various creepily dressed religious orders and heat exhausted children, and we’re gearing up for the Sausage Dog parade. All seem pretty popular and are clearly serving their purpose of allowing people who are into the same thing to show their solidarity. Sounds like you’ve just problem with them being gay…

    • Sylwia said

      Corpus Christi is a procession rather than a parade, isn’t it? And cyclists? Shouldn’t they be riding rather than parading?

      I don’t know how you use the word parade. To me it’s in the meaning ‘show, display, ostentation’, not just an assembly of people in order to have fun. Actually I’d love it if it were something like that.

      I now recalled that we have one more kind of parade in Warsaw – the military parade.

      To be sure, I don’t mind that they exist, I just don’t think they’re such a good idea. People are avoiding them rather than joining, with the exception of those parading of course.

      • Pawel said

        Ok Sylvia, so let’s make a Gay Procession!!

        Let’s make a Church of Gay.
        Harvey Milk could be the prophet. I volunteer for a priest.

        We’ll turn gay clubs to ‘temples’. Our religion says that relationships between people of the same sex are sacred. And that heterosexual maririage is a pervert abomination against Our Lord the GayGod!

        And you can’t prove us wrong. Our Holy Book of Vogue is the word of Our Lord! Gaylleluyah!

        You can’t deny anyone the freedom of religion.

        So let’s make a gay procession. Very well.

        • Sylwia said

          I have no problem with that. You can register any religion you want in Poland, even one called the Milan Gayolic Church.

          But, correct me if I’m wrong, they don’t say anything about marriages or politics during the procession. Just the New Testament story.

      • Malina said

        Procession/parade/demonstration/pilgrimage – it’s just semantics I’m afraid. You choose whichever best suits your prejudices but their only purpose is to unite the brethren and demonstrate to the world that they exist. There’s not one religious parade that I’ve seen in Poland that doesn’t fit your description of ’show, display, ostentation’!

        My view is that if a gay parade helps just one person who is struggling with their sexuality feel less alone, then they are worth holding.

        • Sylwia said

          So you wouldn’t see a difference between a few hundreds of people going around their parish, amidst flowers and singing, reading the New Testament, and thousands of people going to the governmental area of town, carrying banners and shouting slogans like: “Let’s pray for gays”, “Tolerance for gays, zero tolerance for gay sex”, “Lord, have mercy on gays for they don’t know what they are doing”, and calling gay activists names and comparing them to Nazis and Commies?

          Interesting. It’s been years since I saw a Corpus Christi procession. A lot must have changed.

          “My view is that if a gay parade helps just one person who is struggling with their sexuality feel less alone, then they are worth holding.”

          My question is what if it hurts more?

          • Malina said

            Of course there is no difference, except in the degree to which I would find either of your examples offensive to my personal views. As far as I know, no one ever died from being offended!

            I’m not sure how a Gay Parade can hurt people?

            • Sylwia said

              As far as I know, no one ever died from being offended!

              They definitely don’t die. They just go and vote against the offenders, which you can see in my other post.

  5. […] don’t think that I’m alone in my view for the reasons stated in my previous post. I think that Poles, in general, don’t like parades because they have bad experiences. I […]

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