Jakub Kwiecinski and Dawid Mycek, a gay Polish couple who this year has been using their love and platform to spread messages of equality in super conservative areas of the country, have kicked it up a notch in a recent visit to the Vatican.
This week, Kwiecinski and Mycek traveled to Vatican City to ask Pope Francis for guidance. As they stood in front of the Holy See, the couple raised a rainbow flag with the word "HELP" written across it.
Of course, the act comes on the heels of tumultuous upheaval in Poland, as a significant number of LGBTQ+ Poles are migrating out of the country to escape what the Associated Press notes as "homophobia promoted by the highest levels of government."
"The Polish bishops call us pedophiles, they say that we are a disease and even that the COVID-19 is a global punishment for LGBT+ sins," the couple told Gay Nation.
"We were amazed how many Catholics from different countries approached us with words of support," they wrote on Instagram. "Nobody felt offended by the rainbow, the police did not chase us out, and when we were alone in the square an hour longer, one of the priests came to us, offered water and listened to what we had to say. Because the rainbow does not offend."
Pope Francis, who has often contradicted himself when it comes to queer acceptance, said last year that the "heart of those who reject" LGBTQ+ people is "not human." Still, the Pope opposes marriage equality and for same-sex couples to adopt children.
The battle for equality is apparent in Poland. Last August, Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski, the Archbishop of Krakow and a national leader of the country's Catholic Church, spoke at a mass and compared the LGBTQ+ community to the Nazi uprising.
"Our land is no longer affected by the red plague, which does not mean that there is no new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds," Jedraszewski said at the time, "not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit, neo-Marxist. Not red, but rainbow."
"We realized that what the Polish church is doing in our country is contrary to the teaching of Pope Francis," Kwiecinski and Mycek noted to Gay Nation. "We decided to go and draw his attention to the fact that the Polish bishops are fueling hatred towards us and we really hope that he will take action. If we were the bosses of a company, we would react by seeing our employee do something against our order. This is exactly what we expect from the Pope. Especially since the government in place regularly justifies its conservative policy by religion."
LGBTQ+ people began fleeing Poland as early as five years when the archconservative Law and Justice party, led by Andrzej Duda, was sworn into office and unleashed a slew of anti-queer sentiments. He was sworn in for a second five-year term earlier this month.
In recent years, nearly one-third of Poland's municipalities have passed resolutions reminiscent of Russia's anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law, which punishes people for expressing their queerness in public. These cities have categorized themselves as "LGBT-free" zones and directly contradict the mission of freedom of expression exhibited by the European Commission, an executive branch of the European Union.
In fact, six of these "LGBT-free" cities have lost funding from the European Commission because of their choice to pass anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda laws. To put it in perspective, these "LGBT-free" cities, collectively, have a land mass larger than Hungary.
In April, Kwiecinski and Mycek produced hundreds of rainbow-hued face masks and handed them out at no charge in their hometown of Gdansk. They documented their advocacy in a YouTube video as a way to highlight LGBTQ+ equality and acceptance.
"We are tired but happy because it's cool, as it turns out, the rainbow does not offend, does not infect, but can protect people from a real threat," they said in the video.
As Poland continues to suprress the queer community through legislation and social oppression, queer activists are certainly in for the fight of their lives.