Finally, some good news from Poland: Some liberal leaders ‘waved the rainbow flag’ on Tolerance Day. Queer activists, however, asked for more support – they had wished for a stronger commitment, especially from one major politician.


A colourful rainbow shines through the Warsaw Night – a truly welcome sight after this year, which once again showed a clear increase in queer hostility in Poland. As a gesture of solidarity with the queer community, several buildings in Polish cities were brightly illuminated on Monday. These include the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, the new City Hall in Gdansk, and buildings in Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan and some smaller towns and cities.

16 November is traditionally the International Day of Tolerance. On this day 25 years ago, the 185 member states of UNESCO signed the Declaration of Principles of Tolerance. Since then, UNESCO reminds every year of these rules, which are intended to enable all cultures and religions to live together in dignity.

This year, some liberal leaders in Poland joined this campaign – to signal to the queer community in Poland that they are not alone. A great gesture – as such, Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Equal Opportunities, also welcomed the action on Twitter:


Criticism of Warsaw’s mayor

Queer activists* from Poland expressed their gratitude for the support. But they also admonished: It is not enough. They focused on Rafał Trzaskowski (48): The mayor of the Polish capital had promised the queer people of his city much more support in advance, they emphasised.

Hubert Sobecki, an activist of the queer non-governmental organisation Love Does Not Exclude Associtation, criticised Trzaskowski in an interview with the news agency Reuters. Two years ago, the mayor of Warsaw had signed an LGBT+ charter – in which he committed himself, for instance, to introducing queer education in Warsaw schools. So far, however, nothing has happened, Sobecki stressed. On the rainbow campaign, he said:

“This is obviously a symbolic gesture, and we welcome it when it comes from mayors of smaller towns and communities. We expect more from someone who […] is committed to doing something tangible for the Community”.

Is COVID-19 to blame?

Bartosz Staszewski

Trzaskowski, who had competed against Polish President Andrzej Duda in the summer and had lost, tried to blow into the same queerhostile horn during the election campaign to convince conservative voters. When asked by Reuters, a spokeswoman of Warsaw City Hall said that the implementation of the Charter was a complex process – made even more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The filmmaker and queer activist Bartosz Staszewski, who drew international attention to the issue with his photo project on “LGBT-free zones”, told Reuters that the lighting of a bridge over the Vistula in Warsaw made him think of a trans activist who died after jumping off that bridge.

“I have such terribly bad associations when now the same bridges are simply illuminated with rainbow light and nothing else happens in Warsaw”.

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