Ultra-nationalist groups in Poland are facing an entirely new type of enemy in a group of grassroots grandmothers fighting back against their anti-LGBTQ+ hatred. Known as the Polish Grannies, they are leading the stand against the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) and those inspired by their far-right policies.
Anna Irena Łabuś is one of the oldest and most active of the Polish Grannies. An atheist, she is nonetheless known as “Mother Superior,” according to Christian Science Monitor. She has survived invasion and occupation first by Nazi Germany and later the Soviet Union. One of her most prized possessions is a copy of the Polish constitution which she keeps safely tucked away in a red velvet Victoria’s Secret handbag. But in 205, she was devastated when PiS won control of the government.
“In 2015, my world collapsed,” Łabuś told the Monitor. “Since then, I have been saying openly what hurts me. I don’t agree with breaking the constitution.”
Poland has some of the strictest anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Europe. The country has not yet achieved marriage equality. Polish law does not allow for hate crimes against LGBTQ+ persons, and the ruling PiS voted down legislation to do so in 2016. More recently, local Pride events have come under violent attack. At this moment there are also bills under review that call LGBTQ+ people pedophiles.
Łabuś is refusing to back down though, and challenges the nationalists at every opportunity. She was one of the many counter-demonstrators arrested for disrupting an infamous February 2018 ultra-nationalist rally. And she is quick to grab her rainbow flag and take to the streets when she sees them marching outside her window. And she is not alone.
“Nationalists feel more and more confident,” Ms. Łabuś told the Monitor. “Nationalists want to subjugate women to live the way they want them to and that is why women are the first to protest against them.”
She is part of a larger trend across continents where women are taking increasingly active roles in areas traditionally reserved for men. But it's not without objection.
Protesting against ultra-nationalist is dangerous, with often drunk fascists throwing bottles, bricks, and worse at those with whom they disagree. There is also the threat of arrest by police. At the insistence of her son, another Polish Grannie, Krystyna Piotrowska, has installed a special app on her phone just in case she is arrested. She is willing to note, however, that age and matriarchy do have their benefits in one respect.
“Everyone has or had a grandma,” she told the Monitor. “People usually think positively about them. Our name is also a type of protection against attack.”