Ashamed of Lublin

City intersection. Lublin, 2009.

Lublin‘s Studio for Socially Engaged Art, led by Szymon Pietrasiewicz  (see At War With the Past) designed a social tolerance campaign using hand-drawn images printed on city bus tickets. These pictures presented Jews, Roma and gays as being accepted by soccer fans of the local football club, Motor Lublin.

This was a risky gesture. In Poland, like the rest of Eastern Europe, football is synonymous with rightwing politics. Unsurprisingly, although the message conveyed would have promoted a positive image of the club, Motor Lublin protested them. Capitulating to the club’s demands, Lublin’s mayor ordered the destruction of 2.5 million tickets, which were ready for distribution.

In widely distributed letter, Motor Lublin fans wrote: “In a country, and in a city, where the overwhelming majority of society belong to the Catholic church, the forced promotion of the image of homosexuals, additionally (the horror!) the graphic identification of homosexuals with fans of the most valued soccer club in Lublin calls for revenge.”


Tolerance ticket graphic. Lublin, November 2012.


In spite of the tickets destruction, Motor City fans marched on city hall in protest, under the slogan “Stop Tolerance for Tolerance!” They chanted “”Fuck Gazeta Wyborcza!” — Poland’s main newspaper, edited by legendary Jewish dissident Adam Michnik, which, unsurprisingly, did a very good job of  covering the event. Other slogans chanted included “Greater Poland!”, “Lublin: city without deviations.” Given the fact that Lublin plays home to long-residing Jewish, Roma and queer communities, ridding it of ‘deviations’ is highly troubling. How can these communities be considered out of the ordinary, when they constitute an integral part of the city’s historic population? If anything is deviant, it’s such rightwing sentiment. Intolerance is the real foreigner here.

Lublin’s giving in to the demands of reactionary soccer fans augurs ill for the Polish city. Unfortunately, the strength of local rightwing groups is growing.  Recently, the local headquarters of the mainstream trade union Solidarity (Solidarność)  played host to The National Radical Camp (ONR), a longstanding nationalist-fascist organization first founded in the 1930s.  Well-known for its hatred of Jews and homosexuals, Solidarity did a disservice showing the ONR such welcome.  Gazeta Wyborcza‘s Lublin branch editor-in-chief, Malgorzata Bielecka-Holda, commented: “I’m ashamed of my city.” She’s not the only person. Lublin is my home, too.


Photographs courtesy of soylentgreen23, Maciej Palka and Dominik Szczesniak. Published under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Thanks for this article, Tomasz. Bus tickets and football pitches are part of the public sphere to which are all entitled. This article describes art that makes the connection and a right-wing anti-gay, anti-minoritarian backlash that refuses to accept equal entitlement. May there be more interesting bus tickets…

  2. Yes, Joe! I dream of art which involves everyone, literally “Lublin for All.” Szymon Pietrasiewicz is trying to do this in Tektura Alternative Collective and in the Studio for Socially Engaged Art. He is a socially engaged performance artist himself who “protested the corporatization of Polish life by undressing in public, sporting a price tag that read “Human Being, 9,99 zlotys” in a shopping mall.”

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