“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” So said Groucho Marx but then he wasn’t Polish and Poles, of course, are only really happy when they are sad or in the face of some great tragedy.
Despite the generally positive outlook (please see Economy) according to a recent survey by the CBOS Institute, 59 per cent of Poles have a negative view of Poland’s current situation, four percentage points more than in January. Some 43 per cent of respondents said that the country’s economy is in bad shape with a quarter expecting a deterioration, and 18 per cent hoping for an improvement, over the next twelve months.
The institute attributes these changes in public sentiment to the protests by various groups – farmers and miners, to name but two, which has also resulted in a dramatic fall in the Government’s popularity rating to 30 per cent, its lowest level since Ewa Kopacz took office as prime minister last September. Disapprovals out rank approvals by 32 per cent and as for the prime minister herself, 33 per cent approve while 47 per cent disapprove. Still, she is more popular than parliament as a whole, which has an approval rating of only 18 per cent as against a disapproval rating of 71 per cent.
Which is probably why, as the experts announced on Poland’s National Depression Awareness Day yesterday, that 1.5 million Poles suffer from depression. And this number is growing, according to Dr. Piotr Wierzbiński of the Medsolver Psychological Association because of the increasing pace of life and the stress that is associated with it.
Be that as it may, let’s look on the bright side. The tragi-comic closure of the Łazienkowski bridge after a fire last weekend does at least seems to have sped up the building inspectors’ hitherto sluggish approval of the second Warsaw metro line, the opening of which has been subject to months of delays. It was expected to open, late of course, before Christmas but, irony of ironies, a fire at one of the new stations delayed the opening yet again. It might now open next month. Which is just as well since nobody seems sure how long it will be until the bridge – a major east west route in Warsaw – will re-open, with the mayor suggesting the works could take “between a few and a dozen-or-so months”.
And on the international front the news seems better. Despite weeks of a Polish Russian spat over the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, with Polish president Komorowski having allegedly failed to respond to brother Putin’s invitation to attend the commemoration in Moscow, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Vladimir Titov was in Warsaw for an official visit yesterday. The talks focused on bilateral cooperation, including issues related to the Smolensk catastrophe, legal and treaty issues, matters relating to diplomatic real-estate and historical policy, the conflict in Ukraine, and Russia’s role in fulfilling of the Minsk agreement. However, so tense were the discussions, it was agreed to cancel a joint press conference expected to follow the meetings which, sparing us the usual clichés, must also count as good news.
The icing on the cake, however, must be our old chum Radek Sikorski’s interview with TVP in which he stated that Putin has lost Ukraine, as he has the strength of young Ukrainian nationalism against him and is meeting with ever greater resistance. Indeed, brother Putin has himself said that full scale war in Ukraine would be an apocalyptic scenario and most unlikely. Asked what the reaction should be if Russia did openly begin a war with Ukraine, Sikorski said that the victim of aggression must be helped to defend itself. ”More people will die, but if we let Russia conquer Ukraine, do we not pay a price for that?” Sikorski also said that Ukraine must follow Poland’s example since 1989 and forge ahead with the internal reforms that had served it so well. Sikorski argued that Europe cannot abandon Kiev. ”Ukrainians are struggling at the gateway to Europe – we owe them our solidarity,” which is, alas, exactly the type of cliché I had hoped we might avoid.
So come on, Poles, be positive! Remember Abraham Lincoln: “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”