Quizá se trate de un proceso significativo.
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“Los silesios tienen su propio idioma, una larga historia común y viven en una de las regiones más ricas de Polonia. Hoy, sus reivindicaciones de autonomía son cada vez más apremiantes. En Katowice, en el último congreso del Movimiento para la Autonomía de Silesia, a comienzos de marzo, se percibía un sentimiento de victoria. En este edificio que albergaba el Gobierno y el Parlamento autónomos de la región en el periodo de entreguerras, se reunían 130 delegados, algunos de los cuales vestían el traje tradicional. “Queremos la autonomía, no porque tengamos problemas con el resto de Polonia, sino porque estamos convencidos de que así podremos defender mejor nuestros derechos y gestionar los fondos públicos. Para nosotros, la autonomía no es una vuelta atrás. Al contrario, es el futuro, es una forma de resolver la crisis política por la que atraviesan los actuales Estados naciones europeos”, afirma Piotr Dtugosz, un militante autonomista de 32 años…” Los irreductibles autonomistas de Silesia.
Financial Times, 5 enero 2014.
Silesian push for autonomy tests Poland’s unity ahead of polls
Jan Cienski in Katowice
Jerzy Gorzelik carries a Polish passport, lives in Poland and speaks Polish to his wife and children, but ask him his nationality and without hesitation the slight, goatee-sporting art historian will respond that he is a Silesian.
Choosing a regional identity over a national one might not raise eyebrows in Quebec or Catalonia, but it is a touchy issue in Poland. Since the second world war it has been one of Europe’s most ethnically homogeneous states, with 96.5 per cent of people choosing Polish nationality in the latest census in 2011 rather than tick a secondary ethnic or national group.
It is also one that could cause trouble for the government of Donald Tusk, premier, as he tries to rally flagging support for his ruling Civic Platform party ahead of this November’s regional elections.
“We want Poland to be much more decentralised, more like Germany, Switzerland or Spain, but in Poland even moderate demands are seen as very radical,” says Mr Gorzelik, head of the Movement for the Autonomy of Silesia.
Upper Silesia is a region in south-western Poland on the German border. Silesians have built their identity around the coal mines and factories that made the region one of the heartlands of European industrialisation. Until the war locals spoke Polish, German or a dialect of their own mixing the two.
The issue of whether or not the 809,000 people who claimed a Silesian identity in the census are a nationality or not is an increasingly sensitive one, with Poland’s supreme court ruling in December that Silesians were not a nation.
“There can be no acceptance of the suggestion that a Silesian nation is being formed or already exists,” the court ruled, adding: “Efforts to gain autonomy and self-rule of people of ‘the Silesian nation’ on the territory of Silesia has to be assessed as contrary to the integrity of the Polish state.”
The demands of Mr Gorzelik and other Silesian nationalists would appear quite mild to Scots and Catalans. They would like a return to a more autonomous regional parliament, something the region enjoyed before the war, as well as protection for the Silesian dialect, which is rapidly disappearing.
“We can’t be accused of trying to break up the Polish nation. In contrast with other regional European groups we’re really very moderate,” says Mr Gorzelik, a professor at the local university.
But any hint of ethnic division creates allergic reactions in Warsaw, in large part because of Poland’s turbulent history. During centuries of fighting to restore their country and free it from foreign domination, any suspicion of deviating from those goals was treated as treason.
We can’t be accused of trying to break up the Polish nation. In contrast with other regional European groups we’re really very moderate
– Jerzy Gorzelik, head of the Movement for the Autonomy of Silesia
The rightwing opposition Law and Justice party warned that declaring oneself to be a Silesian “is simply a camouflaged German option”. Even Mr Tusk, who proudly says he is a member of the Kashubian minority, a 200,000-strong Slavic group that lives along the Baltic coast, said that while he does recognise Silesian regional characteristics, they do not form a nation.
The growing dispute over which group is or is not a nation is a faint echo of the much more virulent discussion that tore through prewar Poland. Before the war, ethnic Poles made up only about two-thirds of the population. Ten per cent were Jews and there were significant minorities of Ukrainians, Belarusians, Germans and others.
After the war Poland’s borders were shifted far to the west. Jews had been murdered and Germans deported, leaving an almost ethnically pure country. Silesians were left as the largest minority. They had been treated with suspicion by the Nazis because they were too Polish, and by the postwar Polish communists, because they were too German.
“My sense of history is very different from a Polish sense of history,” says Mr Gorzelik.
That sense of history combined with the supreme court ruling could end up creating problems for Mr Tusk in the regional elections, seen as a crucial test of support before 2015 parliamentary elections.
Civic Platform has been losing ground to Law and Justice in opinion polls for months, and needs to put in a strong showing.
But Mr Gorzelik’s movement took 8.5 per cent of the vote in Upper Silesia (one of 16 Polish regions) in 2010 local elections, and he now hopes that outraged Silesians will be keener to back his party.
“Kicking Silesians will wake them up,” he warns.
- Europa (s) en este Infierno.