On 22 June 2020, the LGBTI themed mural has been destroyed in Szczecin, Poland, reported Wyborcza.
The mural was revealed on 20 June by Lambda Szczecin (an association established to help victims of discrimination, in particular people belonging to the LGBTQ + community) and was painted over with red paint just two days later.
Monika “Pacyfka” Tichy from Lambda told Freemuse that the artwork had been created amidst the difficult time for the LGBTI community in Poland in terms of extensive “attacks by the populist-right-wing government” and the COVID-19 pandemic which have impeded the organisation of a Pride event.
The activist further added that the motivation behind the mural was “to remind [people] that we belong to society, we contribute to the culture, by reminding that one of the most important Polish authors of 20th century, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, was gay. That was a message to the public: we were here, we are, and we will stay.”
Tichy expressed that due to small letters included in the design of the mural and not the apparent LGBTI content, Lambda hoped that it would last for a few weeks. Instead, it was destroyed three days after its creation.
When asked about who potentially could vandalise the mural, Lambda suspects the local neo-Nazis groups. “They are unofficially cooperating with Church and with the ruling Law and Justice [PiS] politicians,” said Tichy and added that the politicians are continuously following Lambda’s social media and actively try to prevent Lambda’s actions.
The mural designed by Monika “Pacyfka” Tichy, Łukasz Jurewicz and Miki Starzyński depicts the conversation between Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, a prominent Polish writer and his partner Jerzy Błeszyński, in the form of a modern online phone chat. The text of messages includes quotes from love letters sent from Iwaszkiewicz to Błeszyński between 1954 and 1959.
“‘I love you. What should I do?’ – asks Jarosław. Jerzy answers with a heart emoji. ‘You are all to me: lover, brother, death, life, existence, weakness and power.’ – Jarosław continues. ‘You are all my happiness, the sunlight of my decaying lifetime’.”
The team that created the mural wishes to remain anonymous.
The title of the mural created some additional controversy. Jarek is a short form for a name Jarosław, which Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz (who is portrayed in the mural) and Jarosław Kaczyński (the leader of the ruling party PiS) share. Tichy highlighted that the representative of the PiS party in Szczecin attended the unveiling of the mural.
“When a big cloth with the title Jarek you faggot was dropped, to reveal that it’s about Iwaszkiewicz, not Kaczyński, their faces were priceless,” Tichy said.
Lambda association is gathering funds for the renovation of the mural.
“To tell publicly about one’s orientation or identity is always a risk, especially for those who cooperate with public, government-controlled media – to lose contracts and fans. The same risk goes with being an ally, speaking out publicly about LGBT+ rights. But we have some courageous people who do not care and stand for us, like author Olga Tokarczuk, last year Nobel Prize winner,” Tichy summarized the situation of LGBTI art and artists in Poland.
According to Freemuse’s State of Artistic Freedom 2020, LGBTI-related expression has been targeted throughout 2019 in Poland. The LGBTI community has been deemed as “dangerous ideology undermining mortality and threatening the traditional, Catholic Polish family.” The LGBTI expression was defamed by senior Church officials and other members of authorities.