rostowski25_JANEK SKARZYNSKIAFP via Getty Images_kaczynski JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

The Drama of Falling Populists

In the space of just a few weeks, Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński of the ruling Law and Justice party has witnessed his authority crumble and slip through his fingers like grains of sand. He witnessed it not only in parliament, but also at a memorial and at a polling station.

WARSAW – Consider the following three-scene play. In the first scene, it is October 10, 2023. Jarosław Kaczyński, the soon-to-be-deposed little “Big Man” of Poland’s populist ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), does what he does on the tenth day of every month. He lays flowers at the monument commemorating his twin brother, then-President Lech Kaczyński, and 95 others who died when their plane tried to land in thick fog at Smolensk airfield in Russia, in April 2010.

Meanwhile, Zbigniew Komosa, a Polish entrepreneur who carries out a similar ritual on the tenth day of every month, lays a wreath commemorating the victims of the crash. But pinned to his offering is a note that reads: “In memory of the 95 victims of Lech Kaczyński, who, ignoring all regulations, ordered the pilots to land in extremely hazardous conditions. May you rest in peace.”

Every month, Kaczyński has had Komosa’s wreath removed. This time, however, the police attending Kaczyński are somehow less eager to do so, and Kaczyński must do it himself. He tears the note off and carries the wreath away from the monument to cries of “thief” from Komosa and a friend who is filming the entire incident. Kaczyński then demands that the police arrest the wreath-layers or at least take down their names, while Komosa demands that they arrest Kaczyński for stealing private property.