1st August 2005

In the spotlight: Andzelika Borys

From Warsaw Business Journal

by Katarzyna Debek

There are 400,000 Poles living in Belarus, of which 20,000 are members of a minority organization that has recently become a bone of contention between Alexander Lukashenko's party and the Polish government.

The conflict erupted when the Union of Poles in Belarus elected Andzelika Borys as its new head. Her main flaw? She is not Tadeusz Kruczkowski - the former, pro-Lukashenko leader of the Polish minority. Such an independent nomination could not be taken lightly by Europe's last dictator, especially in light of Polish support for uprisings in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

The headquarters of the Union in Grodno were closed for members, and those who continued to engage in the organization's activities - such as a Polish folk concert - were arrested. A couple of days ago Belarusian militia knocked on Andzelika Borys' doors in the middle of the night and she only escaped imprisonment by refusing to let them in and warning that she would inform the international media. If there is one thing Lukashenko is worried by, it is more bad PR.

The arrests, Soviet-style lawsuits and finally the storming of the Union of Poles' offices by Belarusian special forces seriously harmed diplomatic relations between Minsk and Warsaw. There were expulsions of diplomats on both sides and fierce demonstrations in front of the Belarusian embassy. In order to deal with the crisis, Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld summoned his ambassador from Minsk. Belarusian authorities accused Andzelika Borys of fraud. As the WBJ went to press, the conflict remained unresolved.