This article was originally published by VICE Poland.
Photos by Aurelia Moczynska.
Thousands of farmers on tractors blocked the highways of Warsaw on Wednesday, the 11th of February, to protest new market regulations. Similar protests took place in other, smaller cities across Poland.
"We are not asking for millions from the European Union – all we want is to work honestly," said one farmer outside the Ministry of Agriculture. A delegation led by the head of the agricultural wing of the National Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ), Sławomir Izdebski, had gathered there since 10AM asking to meet with Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki.
"The Ministry of Agriculture is trying to make a fool of the polish countryside," said Izdebski. Entering the ministry, he announced he'd come with 13 demands – three of which were non-negotiable. He was referring to the destruction of crops by wild boar for which the farmers' are seeking government compensation.
The farmers also demanded the resignation of Sawicki because according to them he has failed to fulfil his pre-election promises. The crowd chanted the words "pig" and "moron" while some were holding placards with a caricature of the minister as a wild boar and the inscription "pig from Podlasie".
Podlasie is Sawicki's birthplace; Some farmers who live in the area told me they were ashamed to be from the same place as "that pig". They also kept saying that the money that should be invested in agriculture is meaninglessly spent on aid for Ukraine. "The government can't afford to help its farmers, but it has 100 million PLN [£18 million] to donate to Ukraine," one of them shouted.
Much to their dismay however, an hour or so into their meeting, Izdebski left saying the minister refused to meet their demands. "This government will soon come to realise the extent of our powers," he warned. "Next week 100,000 people will take over the streets of Warsaw." After that, some of the protesters sang the Polish National Anthem.
At the moment, it does look like the farmers are determined to keep fighting. Which is nice, but also annoying for many Warsaw residents who are annoyed by the constant protests taking place on their city streets. "There are conference rooms, discussion panels – why would you drive tractors to the city centre? If they want to protest, they should do it back in their own hometowns," said a man I bumped into on the street.