Irena Maryniak

is a writer and translator living in London. She is the author of Offence: The Christian Case, part of the Manifestos for the 21st Century series published by Seagull Books in association with Index on Censorship.


Cover for: Remembering to forget

Remembering to forget

Memory politics in Poland and Hungary

Fidesz actively denies any Hungarian responsibility for WWII and the Holocaust, projecting itself as a healer of imperial wounds from a hundred years ago. In Poland, PiS goes even further by taking credit for all resistance towards both the Nazi and the Soviet regimes. In both cases, the abuse of history for national glorification revives the culture wars of the past.

The new boys in Europe

Why are the super-rich bankrolling the press?

Respected but bankrupt European newspaper titles such as Le Monde in France, El Pais in Spain and the Independent in the UK have recently been sold to business tycoons unconnected with the media. Their motives are debatable, but the ones to watch are the Russians says Irena Maryniak.

Cover for: Table talk

“It is an unnatural but positive development when democracy trains people to believe that, overall, it is better to let the bastard speak.” Former Solidarity activist and journalist Konstanty Gebert talks to Irena Maryniak about censorship post-’89 and anti-Semitism in Poland today.

From patriotism to plurality

The Polish media journey

In many ways, Poland had a head start on other countries in eastern Europe. But after an ebullient beginning, the post-1989 media there appears to have lost its impetus for reform. Media law has yet to catch up with the facts on the ground and constitutional assurances of free expression are not translated into legal independence. Nevertheless, locally owned Gazeta Wyborcza continues to set the standard for journalism throughout eastern central Europe.

Trafficking in forced labour generates up to US$15.5 billion in the industrialised world. It attracts little attention and is widespread in Europe. But until policy makers recognise the need to manage the demand for migrant workers, there will continue to be a market for those prepared to risk exploitation, writes Irena Maryniak.

The Polish plumber is the butt of jokes throughout Europe, and even the Polish tourist board has made use of the cliché. However, in the UK, which until now has not put a limit on the number of work permits for members of new EU member states but will begin to do so for Romanians and Bulgarians, there is a growing resentment towards eastern European economic migrants. For the Poles working in the UK, meanwhile, the market speaks louder than words: for them, migration is a way out of high unemployment and an illiberal political climate at home.

How do outsiders negotiate the new urban space in which they arrive? How do they make it their own?

Polish journalists are more concerned about Poland’s reputation abroad than the real problems facing the country. And these are legion: the far-right policies of newly appointed education minister Roman Giertych, for example, or the growing role of Catholic radio station Radio Maryja as government mouthpiece; the prospect of a spate of witch-hunts against former Communists, or the government’s promise to introduce “moral censorship” to reflect the traditional Polish Catholic ethos.

Aids in russia

Ignorance, exclusion and denial

Along with India and China, Russia has the fastest growing HIV infection rate in the world. Yet there is no sex education in schools, no HIV/AIDS awareness programme and a profound reluctance to admit to the problem at official levels.

The highly personalised, morally coded, loyalty-bound forms of association that were the mainstay of life in communist Europe are proving resistant to efforts to impose a more formal rule of law.

Goodbye Solidarity ...

... and Welcome to Poland's New Breed Democrats

Irena Maryniak describes Poland’s new breed of democrats as europhobic, catholic-backed, warm and xenophobic, glowing from their unexpected triumph at the polls.

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