Feature: Is Poland bowing to hatred by removing this rainbow installation?

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

A rainbow art installation in Poland will be taken down after being set alight several times, apparently because it is perceived as a symbol of LGBT rights.

In 2013, PinkNews reported how Warsaw’s ‘Tecza’ (Rainbow) art installation was savagely set aflame because it was perceived to symbolise Poland’s LGBT community.

Today, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, owners of the installation, has announced it will be taken down indefinitely.

Despite designer Julita Wojcik explaining that the 16,000 colourful plastic flowers which arch over the Plac Zbawiciela (Saviour Square) represent love, peace and hope in an a-political manner, as the structure is a rainbow, an LGBT symbol, Tecza has become emblematic of Poland’s LGBT community.

Consequently, the structure has suffered repeated arson attacks since its installation in Warsaw in 2012, with right-wing nationalists burning the artwork only a week after its renovation on Polish Independence Day, 11th November 2013.

Although none of the attacks have been claimed by political groups, they represent the hostile attitude of parts of Polish society towards LGBT rights, and social change in general. The location of the Rainbow, which is situated directly in front of the ‘Church of the Holiest Saviour’, has proved particularly controversial: the elected Polish Law and Justice politician Stanislaw Pieta, for example, claimed that ‘the hideous rainbow had hurt the feelings of believers’.

Additionally, Polish Priest Tadeusz Rydzyk described Tecza as a ‘Symbol of deviancy’. Clearly, the numerous verbal and physical homophobic attacks on Tecza from politicians, clergy and political activists are symptomatic of the conservative nature of Polish society, which remains strongly tied to the Catholic Church. Does the removal of Tecza therefore illustrate how LGBT rights are being ignored in Poland?

Not entirely. As Poland has grown increasingly Western and liberal both politically and socially in recent years, some progress in terms of LGBT rights has followed accordingly. The election of Anna Grodzka, the world’s first transgender MP, to the lower house of the Polish Parliament in 2011 illustrates Poland’s potential to become a leading nation for the LGBT community.

Furthermore, today’s announcement to remove Tecza was explained as being a routine procedure by a city of Warsaw PR spokesperson, which will allow the structure to be renovated and restored. In the meantime, Pawel Potoroczyn, director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, has explained that a variety of options are being explored as to the future of the piece, which includes the creation of an online voting system asking residents whether they want to see it re-installed.

Here lies the crucial issue concerning Tecza.

If the Rainbow is relocated to a less controversial area of Warsaw, or scrapped altogether, it will represent a failure for the LGBT community, as political pressure advocating backwards and homophobic views will have succeeded in removing a symbol of Polish freedom. If the structure, however, is re-installed in Saviour Square and Mayor of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz maintains her promise that the Rainbow will be rebuilt ‘as many times as necessary’, this sends a clear message of tolerance and acceptance for the Polish LGBT community.

For now, stories such as Dorata Chojna’s, who explained to the New York Times in 2013, “As a homosexual person, I don’t feel safe in Warsaw”, will unfortunately continue to be the norm amongst Poland’s LGBT community. Hopefully, the residents of Warsaw will vote in favour for the re-installation of the beautiful Tecza rainbow, which will represent another step towards achieving full LGBT rights in Poland.