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The National Freedom Institute is a government agency created in 2017 with the aim to provide independent civil society organizations with financial support.
Most recently, the Institute announced the recipients of its grants for NGOs willing to establish an endowment fund. Top beneficiaries include entities with direct links to government officials or those siding with the ruling camp’s political agenda. One of the organizations has been established as recently as in February of this year.
All 100 points and half a million zlotys each were awarded to Fundacja Polska Wielki Projekt (first place), Sanctus Paulus Association, Kazimierz Promyk Institute Foundation, All for the Betterment of Life Foundation; Education for Values Foundation, and the Pomeranian Historical Initiative Foundation.
In principle, resources for the establishment of an "endowment fund” are given to entities playing an important role in supporting civil society and social initiatives. Unlike with grants for more specific purposes, in this case, the expenditures do not need to be reported on as meticulously. They are used for statutory activities and whatever purposes the organizations choose to spend them on.
The most renowned among the top six grant recipients is Fundacja Polska Wielki Projekt (Poland the Great Project Foundation)- an NGO founded before the Law and Justice party came to power in 2015. It has already received a grant from the National Freedom Institute before, but never for the establishment of an endowment fund.
The foundation's board includes 26 influential names with close ties to the ruling camp, such as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński. Besides being one of the foundation’s original founders, Mr Gliński also happens to be the initiator of the National Freedom Institute, which distributes the money and has just granted the foundation PLN 500.000 PLN for the establishment of an endowment fund. Other well-known board members include the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz, publicist Grzegorz Górny, PiS MEPs Zdzisław Krasnodębski and Ryszard Legutko, the Polish ambassador to Germany Andrzej Przyłębski, publicist Bronisław Wildstein and President Duda's close associates- Paweł Soloch, Krzysztof Szczerski and Andrzej Zybertowicz.
The second place belongs to the Sanctus Paulus association, an NGO based in the city of Bydgoszcz. As stated on its website, the organization’s purpose is “to maintain and spread our faith and tradition, patriotism, cultivate Polishness, including our culture, language, and customs”. Sanctus Paulus is also very clear about its catholic mission: “Catholicism is for us a source and a goal of action - we promote valuable activities of Church members and spread knowledge and respect for our faith".
The association’s president, Piotr Florek, is at the same time the publisher of "Tygodnik Bydgoski"- a local weekly that does not hide its support for the ruling party. In the 2020 presidential election, Mr Florek endorsed Andrzej Duda. Earlier that year, he received the Bronze Cross of Merit.
One of the more mysterious grant recipients is a foundation with the English name “All for the Betterment of Life”. The records of the National Court Register show that the organization was founded on February 24, 2021. It is based in Warsaw, has no history, and the names of its founders say very little. The foundation's declared goals include "maximizing life satisfaction, values, creativity”.
The Education for Values Foundation (Edukacja do Wartości) has a slightly longer history. It was registered on March 13, 2020. Its founders - Tymoteusz Zych (president) and Jerzy Kwaśniewski (vice-president) – are also the heads of Ordo Iuris, the famous fundamentalist organization founded by a group of lawyers associated with the current government (mainly the far-right catholic faction of the Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro). The remaining members of the foundation (Karolina Pawłowska and Marcin Olszówka) are also members of Ordo Iuris.
The foundation's stated goal is to "support social initiatives, including those rooted in organic thought and the social thought of the Catholic Church." The foundation's website is difficult to find (we did not manage to find it). It is "overshadowed" by a foundation with a similar name: "Education with Values". This one declares allegiance to the motto: "God-Honour-Homeland".
Slightly lower on the National Freedom Institute’s list of grantees, but not without a substantial amount of financial support, is Robert Bąkiewicz's Independence March Association. The far-right nationalist organization received PLN 198.000 from the fund’s media tranche to create a “civic local media outlet- National Media”.
The media content is likely to be similar to what the organization already promotes on its website. For instance: there are anti-EU speeches by Mr Bąkiewicz who opposes Poland's ratification of the European Recovery Fund. There is also an appeal for the removal of the Auschwitz Museum director Piotr Cywiński ("he sold out to the Germans"). There is information about the "men's rosary", "men's way of the cross", the organization of a "national guard" (which in the fall of 2020 responded to Jarosław Kaczyński's call to "defend the churches") and even a fundraiser for a lawsuit against Gazeta Wyborcza.
The National Social Institute, another far-right organization, is also going to receive a grant worth almost PLN 200.000 to “develop a watchdog component of its New Order portal”.
Konrad Smuniewski, a member of the foundation’s two-person board, has been called "a rising star of the national movement".
Early in 2020, Mr Smuniewski was suspended from the Warsaw University for "offending the dignity of a member of the academic community." The reason was his words delivered in front of the university gate during a demonstration under the slogan "Universities free from Marxism". There, he said: "What they do to themselves is nuts. They call this science. And they push this quackery through universities all over the world".
At the same demonstration, he also said: "we're growing stronger, and you have HIV", or "we have to promote our values at universities, because they're going to start doing to us what they do in England, where they teach people how to be faggots”, or "I'm not going to say where they touch themselves and call it science". He also recalled that once "they wanted to expel him from the university" because "he dared to say that there would be no Hanukkah celebrations at the Warsaw University. Jews are such a marginal group in Poland that pagans could easily outnumber them”. And when someone shouted from the crowd: "They should chase them out!" Mr Smuniewski agreed: "Maybe they should, yes".
His foundation is affiliated with a network of right-wing populist media outlets, most of which have the word "national" in their names, and with the right-wing TV station wRealuTV, known for promoting hate speech, anti-vaccine and anti-EU ideology. Its associated publishing house promotes anti-Semitic publicists, such as Staniłsaw Michalkiewicz, and books denying the holocaust: "Return to Jedwabne" by Wojciech Sumliński and "The Holocaust Lie" by Ireneusz Lisiecki.
On its website, the NGO promotes nationalist politicians such as Krzysztof Bosak and Robert Winnicki. It declares the “shaping and strengthening Polish national consciousness", "protection and dissemination of national heritage and religious traditions and values", and "supporting the traditional family model, active social and pro-natalist policy of the Polish state" as its stated goals.
Presenting its "New Order" project, the foundation writes: "as we are witnessing a growing conflict, we believe that the nation, a strong state, religion and order, all under attack by the liberals and the New Left, are not relics of the past (...). We do not consider culture wars to be a minor issue. The destruction of traditional forms of collective life observed in Western countries is an important warning for us. The growing cult of individualism leads to the atomization of society; instead of pursuing the Truth, destructive pluralism is glorified as the highest value, leading only to more social divisions".
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