Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wojtek the bear – Polish war hero

He served, with distinction, in the Middle East, North Africa and Italy. He helped the Poles to victory at Monte Cassino. He shared beer and cigarettes with the lads (and a few lasses).

And now he is going to get his own memorial in Scotland and someone has written a biography. Blockbuster movie, anyone?

Wojtek was born in 1943 in what was then Persia, where a local boy sold him to the Polish 22nd. Artillery Supply Company. He was officially enlisted and travelled with them west, finishing up at the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.

Wojtek had arrived at his finest hour, carrying ammunition, motors and other things that go ‘’bang’, to the front lines. The Battle of Monte Cassino was and is a big deal in Poland – finally a victory by Polish troops against the Nazis.

My dad, then a very young man, was also at the Battle of Monte Cassino, though he didn’t ever tell me about a bear. (He also never mentioned any Poles at Monte Casino. When I told him a few years ago about how proud Poles were of this victory, he was surprised to hear that they were actually there. Which just shows, that in the fog of war, the last to know what the hell is going on are the soldiers in the thick of it. Maybe a good argument against embedding journalists with front line troops?)

At the end of the war, Wojtek was stationed in Berwickshire in Scotland. He was demobed in 1947 and spent a happy retirement at Edinburgh Zoo, and lived to the ripe old age (despite a modest alcohol and tobacco problem) of 22 years old.

A group of campaigners, led by Aileen Orr (well, maybe they got bored with British politics, which is quite understandable) have proposed a memorial to the soldier bear to be erected in one of Edinburgh’s parks.

But this won’t be the first to be erected to the only bear with a smokers cough to have lugged motors for the Polish army. Local high school teacher and historian, Garry Paulin, has written Wojtek’s biography aimed at the kids market – The Soldier Bear. He told the Berwickshire News:

"Since his death there have been statues put up in his honour in London and in Ottawa, Canada."

And perhaps Wojtek can become the symbol of the new Polish immigrant who has flocked and frolicked to Scotland’s bonny lowlands in the last few years. He is just like them. Nice, friendly type, who likes a drink and a smoke.

There is a nice site about Wojtek here. And Garry Paulin’s site is here.

Read on:
Patryk emailed to ask me to remind you about this site dedicated to the bear.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Poland’s winter of discontent

“Civic Platform are clueless.” That’s what many are saying of Poland’s still fledgling government. It must be the shortest political honeymoon in history.

Usually, governments get elected, the majority are relieved to see the back of the old government, and a period of optimism and popularity ensues for the new leaders.

In the UK, Tony Blair and New Labour had, post-1997, a honeymoon that seemed to go on for years. In fact, it went on until after the next election, which they won, too. And then the honeymoon just kept on going. Until, that is, Tony went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid: he invaded Iraq, alongside his buddy, George.

Oops! Honeymoon ends in tears.

After Civic Platform won the October 21 election, the honeymoon seemed to be going to plan. Opinion polls put their approval rating over 50 percent; people were genuinely relieved not to have to wake up in the morning and read the headlines full of Roman Giertych, Andrzej Lepper or Jarolsaw Kaczynski making a fool of themselves, or Poland, or both.

But the approval ratings for Civic Platform are already on the decline. Some members of Platform’s coalition partners – the ever opportunistic Polish Peasant’s Party (PSL) - are muttering, off the record, their discontent.

When Tusk wakes up in the morning he will not be hearing the birds in the trees singing their welcoming morning chorus; all he will be hearing are people on the march demanding more of…well, pretty much everything, actually.

Organized, and not so organized, labour, are having a go and trying to get as much out of the government before they have time to settle. Miners, hospital workers, teachers, customs officials…the list is endless.

Not all of this is Civic Platform’s fault. They have a budget, and deficit, that was drawn up by the previous government.

They have chaos on the eastern border, with HGVs queuing for miles and miles, and days and days, on the Ukrainian and Belarusian side after Poland joined the Schengen fortress. Jaroslaw Kaczynski was claiming that Poland was ‘ready’ to enter Schengen as early as last summer. Well, plainly Poland was not ready. The new restrictions on Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians entering the country - through already tough and inefficient borders - has created the increased delays and customs officials can’t cope with the extra bureaucracy. Naturally, they want more money for the work, and they want more staff to help them.

Though not their fault, the government, characteristically, seems ill prepared for what would happen after the election.

They created an expectation that here would be a government that would be competent – not like that Kaczynski farce – they would be decisive, resolute, purposeful, determined, strong, unifying.

Well, I just don’t see any of those qualities. None at all. All I see is dither, dither, dither. How long before the Polish Peasant’s Party start to distance themselves from the mess piling up before Tusk’s incredulous eyes?

Honeymoon? It wasn't even a day trip.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Polish health service needs the kiss of life

Or something even more intimate. The Polish government have decided to have a ‘White Summit’ where government, president, medical profession and unions all get round a table and talk about stuff.

The health service is short of doctors, who, like nurses, earn a pittance. Strikes and threats of strikes are the norm. Some of the often crumbling hospitals are a health risk to anyone unlucky enough to be sick in one of them. The sector needs some radical surgery and intensive care. The government may have to administer some bitter pills (and other pharmaceutical metaphors). It needs the kiss of life, but all the health service gets is a talking shop and another opportunity for Tusk and President Kaczynski to get at each other’s throats. It’s another case of this government looking like it really hasn’t a clue what to do. So better set up a commission, a round table, a summit. I think they are just passing the buck.

Personally, I go private

Usually. Today, however, I had to go to the state works doctor to get a sick note and medicine for my chest infection. When I turned up and said to the nurse, whose head appeared through a square hole in the middle of a wall, that I needed to be seen, the doctor – a miserable, toad-like individual – initially didn’t want to see me. I think I was keeping him from his private clinic duty – the only way a doctor can stay in the profession is to do private work.

“But I have a contract with this organization, I pay social insurance and I am sick. I want to see a doctor. Oh, and I want some antibiotics, too.”

I always self diagnose. It seems to annoy doctors – which is fun.

Grudgingly, he relented: “Get his card and tell him to wait,” I heard him tell nursey.

So I waited. And then, I waited a bit more. I read some of the drug company flyers hanging around the place. And then I did some more waiting. I paced around the little waiting room, all the while waiting some more. I went outside the waiting room and down the corridor - but even there, I was still waiting.

I went back to the hole in the wall, just to give me something to do while I waited. The nurse hadn’t even bothered to get my ‘card’ yet.

“Can I have my card”?

No I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a card, because I had never been to see the doctor there before.

“And you can’t see the doctor without a card.”

“So could we…make a card?”

She got out a card. “Pesel?” It's a number and I don't actually know it.

“If you don’t have a number then you can’t have a card. And if you don’t have a card then you can’t see the doctor,” she said triumphantly.

I completely lost my temper - I am sick, after all - and ripped up the half filled out ‘card’ (very dramatically) and stormed out the door.

What have you gotta do in this place to get to see a doctor? So I went private.

In the LIM clinic in the centre of Warsaw, about seven rather nicely dressed receptionists are waiting to help with every need, as long as it is medical. They fill out the cards for you as if they were honoured to have the opportunity. They smile and talk about the weather. They then assign you a doctor. They give you a clinic number and say: “Room 9 and that will be 80 zloty, please.”

I waited outside No.9 for five minutes, sitting next to a man whose heal on his foot appeared to be pointing forwards, with his toes pointing backwards. Nasty. And then the doctor called me in.

She was nice but did what all Polish doctors do. They diagnose you, and then they write out a list of medicines and supplements as long as the Magna Carta. And the cost of the anti-biotics (yup, I got them) plus nose decongestant, chest decongestant, calcium (they always prescribe calcium for everything) something to counteract the effects on the stomach of the anti-biotics you are taking, anti-cold remedy….comes to the total planned Polish health service expenditure for 2008.

Are doctors on the make with drug companies, or what?

I would like to go to only state doctors in a state health service. But until they get serious, fund the thing properly, get rid of the inefficiency and corruption, I’m going private.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Who should Poles vote for, if they could, in US primaries?

Primaries and caucuses – the quaint but strange rituals of American politics, are now well underway and where 100,000 is seen as a ‘big turnout’. The Democratic race to find a presidential candidate is one of personality over policy, style over substance – but the issues in the Republican race will be a little more familiar to conservative Poles.

And they should be interested in the winners who will emerge to fight the election in November: the US is still, at present, the only super power in town.

There is the issue of visa waving for Poles wanting to travel to the US; there is the status of the many Poles in the US who are there illegally; and there is also the Polish troops, part of US-led occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. What goes on in Washington should be of keen interest in Warsaw.

So what is there to get interested in? Though American political culture has yet to reach the zombied state that British politics is currently staggering around in – politics, in any meaningful sense, has simply died in my home country – US politics is in a pretty sad and vacuous condition. Take the three main Democratic candidates. The difference between Obama, Clinton and Edwards on policy is paper thin. In fact, the difference between the Democratic candidates and the Bush administration is not really that wide. Clinton, certainly, is almost as hawkish as Big Dick Cheney, for instance. Clinton the demo-con!

I would say that Barack Obama is the closest to most urban, ‘liberal’ Poles, as far as the issues are concerned. He did not support the invasion in Iraq – neither did a majority of Poles. And when President Kaczynski was in Washington last year Obama made a speech that included the following:

"The Bush Administration's policy of splitting Europe into "old" and "new" was not just wrong, it was counterproductive. Poland should not have to choose between its vital interest in closer integration with Europe and its alliance with the United States. America must repair its relationship with Europe as a whole, so that Poland and our other Central European allies are never put in that position again."

[…} We [the US and Poland] also share an interest in working with Russia to meet common security threats and to encourage Russia's integration into Western institutions. But we should also embrace, not abandon, those in Russia working to preserve their hard won liberty, and draw clear lines against Russia's intimidation of its neighbors. 21st Century Europe cannot be divided into 19th Century spheres of influence."

[…] If we can responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies we should - but only when the system works. We need to make sure any missile defense system would be effective before deployment. The Bush Administration has in the past exaggerated missile defense capabilities and rushed deployments for political purposes. The Bush Administration has also done a poor job of consulting its NATO allies about the deployment of a missile defense system that has major implications for all of them. We must not allow this issue to divide "new Europe" and "old Europe," as the Bush Administration tried to do over Iraq."

[…] Invite Poland to join the Visa Waiver Program. We should work to include countries like Poland that are members of both the EU and NATO into the Visa Waiver Program. Today's visa regime reflects neither the current strategic relationship nor the close historic bonds between our peoples, and is out of date."

The points about Russia, the missile defense system and visas chime with the new Civic Platform government – in fact they could almost have been written by Donald Tusk’s speech writers.

So for Civic Platform voters, Obama’s your man. But what of the more conservative Pole? Which candidate in the Republican race should they plump for?

Huckabee – the American Kaczynski?

The Republican candidates are split between small state, fiscal conservatives and the not so small state, social conservatives. This reflects the two parts of the Republican base – richer voters who want less tax and a smaller state made a priority, and are not so interested, or are even relatively liberal, on social issues; and poorer voters who are pro-life, anti-abortion but are not so interested in tax cuts that would not benefit them, particularly.

So on the coastal states, the fiscal conservatives will do better – Giuliani, Romney, McCain; in the poorer southern states and elsewhere then Mike Huckabee, the Kevin Spacey lookalike, has emerged as an obvious choice for the religious right.

Huckabee is certainly the candidate that many PiS voters would choose. He is the southern Baptist minister, God fearing, pro-lifer. Like the Kaczynski brothers he opposes same-sex marriage. He is against gays openly serving in military (what about when they are all in the showers?). In 1992, Huckabee said that "homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk." That could have been written by one of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s speech writers. Like Kaczynski, he supports the death penalty.

Economically, Huckabee seems to support a progressive type of tax (based on consumption rates) and while governor of Arkansas he actually increased the tax burden and state spending. He is also, like Kaczynski, rather clueless about foreign affairs.

All and all, an ideal candidate for the PiS voter and Christian nationalists.

So the ideal would be a Obama, Huckabee contest in November. What we are probably going to get is John McCain – a little gentler than some on immigration, but chiefly known as Mr Surge after he walked down Baghdad high street with a security posse the size of a small army, declaring Iraq ‘safe’ – versus Clinton. These are the establishment candidates on both sides, which means the much trumpeted ‘change, change, change’ will not be coming to American politics anytime soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The anonymous Polish government

Wives of striking miners in Silesia in the southwest, trooped up to Warsaw for a meeting with vice-pm and economy minister, Waldemar Pawlak, yesterday. Unfortunately, he wasn’t at his office. He was in Lublin at the time, down in the southeast. To me that sums up the new Donald Tusk led government: it’s invisible.

Pawlak, when tracked down by journalists for a comment about the strike which has been going on since mid-December (on parity issues with workers in another mine, to which they will be amalgamated) said that, “There is nothing the government can do on this issue. This is an issue for the colliery management.” Oh, and: ‘Strikers should not use their wives to fight their battles for them..,” or words to that effect.

‘The government can do nothing’, should be the slogan for this new government, which swept the hyperactive (on corruption and paranoia issues) Kaczynski government from power on October 21. Since Donald Tusk took over, his government hasn’t really done a lot.

I remember when New Labour entered No. 10 Downing Street, London after 18 years of Tory government. In the first couple of days finance minister Gordon Brown had handed over the power to set interest rates to the Bank of England (a move that shocked everyone – probably even Tony Blair). After a week, policy statements had flown out of the windows of ministries, fax machines and emails from that new internet thingy by the truck load.

Not all, or even any, of these policies were any good – but that is not the point. The New Labour government hit the ground running.

But Donald Tusk and his Civic Platform/Peasant’s Party coalition can't be said to have hit the ground running. Running? They are not even moving. Ground? They have not made it down to the ground, yet. They resemble a doped up kuala bear, sitting in its tree, staring into space.

It’s hard summing up their first few months in power, because they haven’t really done anything. They give the impression of not being ready to take power. Perhaps they are as surprised as the rest of us that they are there at all.

The policy statements they have made – like the one on reforming the funding of public media – are vague, not thought through, and confusing.

Meanwhile, as they dither, trouble looms on many fronts. The miners are restless; the health service workers are restless; the teachers will be protesting outside the education ministry tomorrow.

And the promise of an ‘economic miracle like the Irish had’, looks like a silly promise by Mr Tusk. The Warsaw Stock Exchange has lost record amounts of value this week and last, on fears of a recession in the US and a general world slowdown. Poland would only experience an ‘Irish miracle’ with high economic growth – higher, in fact, than the Law and Justice government were luckily enough to have had happen when they were ruling (a complete coincidence, probably, as they were not the most active government economically). They also need to make tough, and possibly very unpopular reforms to the economy - and that means coming down from the eucalyptus tree, and actually doing something!

Civic Platform define themselves as being economically free market orientated. They are the Laissez-faire party. But non intervention of the state in the economy is one thing; a non interventionist government in anything – nothing - at all is simply not a government.

So time to get your finger out, Donald. Do something!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fear in Poland

The Polish language version of Fear: anti-Semitism in Poland, the book by Jan Gross, has just been published here, two years after the English version.

Polish historians have jumped on it, calling it ‘speculative’ and reinforcing a tired old stereotype of the anti-Semitic Pole. And a Polish prosecutor is reading the book to see if Gross has ‘slandered the Polish nation.’

The previous Kaczynski government brought in a law in 2006 that made it an offence to 'slander the Polish nation by accusing it of participating in communist or Nazi crimes.'

Gross’s publisher, Znak, is delighted, naturally. Empik, the largest book chain store, has been selling out of Fear since it was released last Friday.

I hope the prosecutor in Krakow doesn't go ahead and take Gross to court. The right way to settle a historical dispute is to debate it. Thankfully, that is what some have been doing.

Another book by an author, like Gross, who was born in Poland but since has made an academic career in the US, The Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz seems to argue that understanding the pogrom in Kielce in 1948, and other acts of violence against Jews in the post-war period, was not connected to the Holocaust, or to a general Polish anti-Semitism, but to the situation of Jews, and Poles, in a lawless land with private property appropriated by what was, effectively, a communist occupation.

From reviews, Gross points the finger at the Catholic Church, Polish nationalism before the war, among others, which added to the ‘ideology’ of anti-Semitism which was evident, he says, at that time. The wiki entry sums Gross’s book up like this:

"Fear" undermines Poland's self-image as the heroic and the principle martyr of the war. [Gross] points to Polish "society's violently expressed desire to render the country 'Judenrein' (Jewless). For Gross, Poland's communist regime took over where the Nazis left off in the annihilation of three million of the 3,5-million Jews who lived in Poland before the war. "Poland's communist rulers fulfilled the dream of Polish nationalists by bringing into existence an ethnically pure state,"

In an interview with Polish daily Rzeczpospolita published on Friday, January 11 2008, Gross rejected charges that his book was directed against Poland. "I am convinced anti-Semitism was one of the main poisons that were injected into the Polish identity," he was quoted as saying, and he blamed nationalist and Catholic circles.

Chodakiewicz, on the other hand, puts the murders of Jews in the context of the conflict – sometimes violent on both sides - caused by concrete circumstance, he says. His argument is interesting. He told Polish Radio, in what is a very interesting piece (it sounds better than it reads):

"A free country would have taken care of all the burning issues. Number one was property restitution. Whoever has been despoiled by the Nazis and the communists should have his or her property restored. That goes both for the Christians and the Jews. That didn't happen because of the communist hostility towards private property. Therefore, there were conflicts over property which only the communists could have solved.

Also, the communists entirely destroyed the machinery of the Polish state. When the communists pushed the Nazis out of Poland they started shooting, arresting and deporting functionaries of free Poland. That also means the police and the judiciary of the underground. There was no law and order. When there's no law and order banditry is rampant.

If you add into the mixture what the Soviets were doing – raping, pillaging and killing then you have a fuller picture. The Jewish community which survived the Holocaust, individual Jews and the Jews who returned from the bowels of the Soviet Union were thrown into this mini inferno.'

The truth? Dunno. But what’s good about all this, is that Poles do not go nuts anymore when they are accused of anti-Semitism. They have debates. And if they drop the daft prosecution nonsense down in Krakow – which would be an attack on academic thought and debate - then that will be progress, I suppose. So is the fact that they are talking about something that was taboo for years. And for that they can thank Jan Gross for, as much as anyone.

Historian threatens to reveal Polish atrocities against Jews if tried for slander, Haaretz, 15 Jan

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Super Sarko – role model for Polish politicians?

President Nicolas Sarkozy has been shocking the more conservative French voters with public revelations about his love life. Let’s hope Polish politicians don’t go the same way.

Only a few months into his presidency and Sarkozy seems determined to turn his time at the Elysee Palace into a lurid French soap opera. First we learn that he has a new sexy Italian pop star lover – news he appeared happy to talk about at the very formal press conference in Paris last week.

Now his ex-wife – the marriage still warm and twitching since the divorce only last October – is set to ‘reveal all’ about what a wicked, wicked, man he really is. In a kiss, divorce and tell biography, entitled Cécilia, er… Cécilia tell us, breathlessly:

"Nicolas est un sauteur , […] Nicolas is miserly... a man who loves no-one, not even his children...He has a ridiculous side. He is not worthy. He doesn't behave like the president of the republic. He has a real behaviour problem."

Many French agree. Sarko’s poll ratings are taking a dive. Public revelations such as this are not the stuff of French politics. The private life of politicians was always a no-go area for the media. Having lovers is a very French thing to do, but blubbing about them to the press is a very un-French thing to do.

And so it is in Poland

Polish politicians don’t ‘do’ this kind of thing and neither, generally, does the media.

When the then President Lech Walesa told us after a stay at Buckingham Palace that the ‘bed was so big I lost my wife in it..’ many thought that this was a ‘little too much information’ from Our Lech: talking about these little details was not, and is not, respectable behaviour from a President of Poland; and the thought of Lech in bed with anyone disturbed the more sensitive Pole, and several small animals.

Of course, there are rumours of Polish politicians’ pecadilos – always have been. But the press, by and large, ignores them.

There have been the occasional attempt to get into the political bedroom by hacks. In the early 1990s, The Memoirs of Anastazja P. claimed that she had slept with several Polish politicians, in various locations, and gave them marks out of ten for ‘performance’ etc.

Excuse me while I get a bucket...

...that’s better. Since the book was published - which sold 200,000 copies in the first days of its release in 1992, there has been talk about how ‘P’ was actually working for the still communist dominated secret services – her expose was merely a way to discredit post-Solidarity members who were in positions of power in the newly capitalist Poland.

Recently there has been much tittle-tattle about whether former PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski was secretly gay – more information that came from the same early 1990s secret service files.

Kaczynski - maybe in a PR management exercise - was then caught on camera kissing his ‘good friend’ from Solidarity days, Jolanta Szczypinska. Acres of newsprint and internet space followed, speculating on whether the two would get married. This talk abruptly stopped, after Jarek lost power in the elections last October.

But generally, Polish journalists keep the gossip about who is shagging who a secret (unless, understandably, their name is Andrzej Lepper).

Not only has Lepper and other party bigwigs been accused of sexual harassment, but MPs Sandra Lewandowska and Janusz Maksymiuk (nice couple!) were caught, paparazzi style, by the tabloids, on a beach in Egypt together, with Janusz gently applying sun cream to Sandra’s quivering flesh. Allegedly. But Samoobrona are an exception to the rule - as they are in so many other ways.

So let’s hope President of Poland Lech Kaczynski, or the new PM, Donald Tusk, don’t start holding forth in press conferences about their prowess as lovers. If they do then the tabloid culture, which is rapidly developing in Poland, will haunt them like the French paps will haunt President Sarkozy. And we don’t need politics to get any more personal than it already has become, merci beaucoup. If it does, then national politics will sink, ever deeper, dans le merde.

Update: It just so happens, that today gossip has broken out on the internet that President Lech Kaczynski has 'an alcohol problem'. This comes from a Civic Platform lawmaker's blog - so, must be true.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Normal service will be resumed Sunday

I forgot to tell you - I am in Egypt.

It's nice! Wish you were here.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Polish NASA?

Surly some mistake? But no: a cross party group has decided to set up a Polish rival to NASA. Well, not really a rival to it, but at least have one that rivals...Italy’s space agency [I didn't know they had one, either]. So will we see a Polish Space Shuttle powering off the launch pad at Warsaw airport anytime soon?

No. The project is a little more modest than that. But let’s hope it’s not a Polish version of Galileo – not the EU’s finest hour.

But while Brussels’ has a Galileo complex, Warsaw must have a Copernicus complex. At present Poland spends just 7 million euro on space research – a little less than NASA’s budget of 16 billion dollars. But this hasn’t stopped parliamentarians from having sky high ambitions. takes up the story:

According to "Polska" daily newspaper, Polish deputies gathered in the Outer Space Team are planning to set up a national space agency, similar to the American NASA.

Poland participates in the PECS (Plan for European Cooperating State Charter) programme carried out by the European Space Agency, yet in this way Poland spends only a small fraction of all EU funds allocated for space research […]

The idea of a Polish space agency is supported by deputies from different political parties. Yet, the route to such an agency is very long, taking into account the fact that Poland does not even have its own satellite in space.

Well…quite. ‘Could take time’ as it ‘doesn’t even have a satellite...’

And I love the idea of there being a Polish parliamentary ‘Outer Space Team’!

Team? I thought the whole parliament was from out of this world.

Basically, this is Polish MPs trying to think of ways to get more money out of the EU. The whole of Poland is doing it. I am going to be working on a project this year to try and get some single currency out of Brussels. But it is a good idea, with a ‘social’ I’m entitled.

But what have the Poles been doing in 2007 with their 7 million euros? Fortunately, the same provides us with a summary of the year:

A discovery of an extrasolar planet, participation in astronomical projects, as well as numerous successes of Polish students within international educational projects make up only a part of a summary of the year 2007 as regards Polish astronomy.

But that’s good. Discovering planets is one of the Poles’ greatest talents. They are at the forefront of planet discovery, in fact. Maybe they just have good eyesight?

But I wonder if Polish astronomers this New Year did the same as those wacky guys last year.

In mid-January, on the occasion of the Grand Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, the radiotelescope situated in Piwnice near Torun sent a radio signal to nearby stars with greetings to any extraterrestrial civilisations.
Wacky! Maybe the legacy of Copernicus has left stars in those Polish eyes.