Lesbi in Lodz, Poland!
While in Warsaw in April of 2016, I interviewed Yga Kostrzewa, the spokesperson for Poland's oldest LGBT association called Lambda Warszawa. She told me there happened to be a Pride Parade over the weekend in a nearby city called Lodz. A couple days later, I hopped on a train and headed there. The first thing I ran into was a motorcycle rally downtown.
There was a priest there, and a bunch of men and women (but mostly men) were standing around with patriotic jackets on. Convinced these were the counter-protesters preparing themselves for the Pride March, I figured I had quite a day ahead of me.
The priest was blessing the gatherers.
I sent a longer version of this video to a Polish-speaking friend to ask her if I should be terrified. She responded that this was just a motorcycle rally that happened to be scheduled on the same day as pride. She told me the nationalist fascists I should actually be concerned about use other characteristic symbols on their clothes. When I asked why a priest was there, she said "Welcome to Poland." I then left in search of the Pre-Pride Rally.
After a nice pre-pride rally, the march began. Here's a video of it.
It was a beautiful day.
For the most part, the march happened without any negative incidents. At one point there was a small group of fascists yelling at us, with a large homophobic sign announcing their presence. I'll never forget the moment their sign suddenly came into view. It was hanging from the top of a building near the church. It portrays two gay men having sex, an image which is marked out with a red circle and X. On the bottom it reads: "Hands off of Polish children." This sign was actually ruled by the Polish Courts to be a legal logo for a far-right party called the National Rebirth of Poland.
I thought some people might throw stones at us -or worse- from the top of that building, but luckily that didn't happen. We continued marching peacefully and the police actually formed a barrier between us and the fascists, as you saw if you watched the video.
After the march, we partied hard at a local bar. I met a group of sweet 16-18 year olds who kept me company. Their English was impeccable and their love for equality was strong. For one of them, it was her first time in a bar. She had come to the march from a nearby village, and lied to her very religious mom about where she was going. I could tell she was a bit nervous, but she was also super excited to be there. Her bravery will always inspire me.
I overheard some people speaking español at the march and ended up making friends with an awesome straight girl named Ola, who invited me to stay at her place. She showed me around town that night and the next day. Lodz ended up being a really cool place to visit. It used to be a factory town but now lots of the old factories have been converted into bars and stores. My favorite part was that there are murals painted on buildings all over the city. Here are some examples of them.
I've kept in touch with some amazing new friends in Lodz, and I can't wait to see them again. I feel super fortunate to have celebrated Pride there with such beautiful people. Maybe I can make it back next year. Until next time, peace and love everyone!