It’s only just gone eight in the morning. This is the time to open the huge gate of the barracks of Mińsk Mazowiecki to let about 50 men, boys and girls (of which there are quite a few), dressed in the uniform. Banging heels high leather boots, a group of young and not so young people, never breaking the rhythm, the team distributed in the center of the site and is awaiting instructions of the commander.
“Today’s training is part of an initiative organized by the Ministry of national defense in 2015, to strengthen relations between the Polish paramilitary organizations and the army of the country and to increase the military potential of the volunteer groups (in this case the NRA) with the help of military experts and training course under their direct supervision,” explains Waldemar Zubek (Zubek Waldemar), the press Secretary of the Ministry of defence.
When the group is divided into units of five to six people each, Zubek and other senior officials of the Ministry differ on the grounds of the old barracks, to select the most talented and enthusiastic people. Volunteers are trained to use Kalashnikov assault rifles and shotguns (even if not all trust real guns — some sometimes settle for toy imitations), aim and shoot accurately. There are those who are hidden in bunkers and fighting with the enemy, practicing to throw grenades, those who simulates an ambush and is not afraid to engage in hand to hand combat.
Professional future of members of paramilitary groups may include surprises — in the army or in the police, and does not rule out the possibility of a more administrative career. This, however, does not imply a waiver of the weekly training and military training. At the same time, the interest shown by the government and the Ministry of defence to military craft, the attractiveness of which in the Polish society is growing, and hides something else. Since June of last year what was barely emerging idea turned into an official project, which aims to recruit thousands of members of paramilitary organizations in the fifth state unit of the armed forces. The new division will be called “territorial defense Troops” (OTK).
“What happened in the geopolitical sphere in Europe and, more specifically, in the Ukraine events, as well as the immigration crisis contributed to the formation of the situation, which was studied by our experts,” explains Colonel Remigiusz Zukowski (Remigiusz Zuchowski) from the Bureau of territorial defense. — There is no doubt that the aggressive stance of the Russian Federation was the decisive factor that forced the Ministry to approve the draft OTK aimed at strengthening our defence system and represents an effective response to the hybrid war waged by our enemy”.
The selection of volunteers who will be part of the Troops of the territorial defence, began in September. The Agency’s goal is to collect 53 thousand soldiers by the beginning of 2019 will be divided into 17 teams. The first three teams will have to get to work after a few weeks. Members of paramilitary organizations (35 thousand men and women) will be side by side with the military and veterans, but will occupy in the army a leading position. The participation of ordinary citizens in activities that teaches you to survive in crisis situations, is part of two main missions OTK: the ability to preserve the territorial integrity of Poland and to strengthen the understanding of Polish history and traditions among the local population and linkages between disparate communities. Volunteers will receive for 116 euros per month from the Ministry of defence and will have to undergo a month of military training per year. When the need arises they will throw in some period on the Eastern border near the Russian city of Kaliningrad enclave.
The troops of territorial defense are not something new in the Polish political agenda. In fact, paramilitary forces under the same name has operated in the country in the period from 1965 to 2008. At that time, OTK, already separated from traditional Polish troops, was divided into troops of the internal defense and border troops. At the peak of their popularity, they numbered 65 thousand people. Political changes and reduced military budget in the early 90-ies led to their further reduction. The last units of mechanized infantry was disbanded in 2008.
The future of the territorial defence Troops will act in another country, where today there are over 120 paramilitary units and groups. Five of the most important and popular of them part of the Federation of defense organizations, they receive government subsidies, and in the period between early 2014 and late 2015 similar organizations received a record number of volunteers it has grown from six to 100 thousand.
The head Federation is a Small Association. It was founded in 1910 and is the oldest organization of civil defense, representing today almost 2 thousand members. “The Association has appeared as a sports club, but in reality she was preparing young people to ensure that they have the military says an elderly commander, an architect by profession Voevodsky Krzysztof (Krzysztof Wojewódzki). — The history of the Association can be divided into three periods. From 1910 until 1914 volunteers had joined and became a part of the national army. From 1918 until the end of the Second world war, the organization had 500 thousand members until banned by the Soviet regime; on 13 June 1990 and she resumed her activity, still operates and has received formal recognition from the authorities.”
In which lasted 20 months the period of martial law from 1981 to 1983 Voevodsky realized the importance of the ability to fight for their country. But only upon returning from Morocco, eight years later, he again joined the ranks of the NRA. “Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war, says Voevodsky with a faint smile. — Poland always threatened, and therefore we should be able to defend itself.” Put out another cigarette and clearing his throat, he continues his story: “Association can be compared to scouting with a paramilitary nature. In addition to training volunteers aged 16 years to cope with military situations and natural disasters we often organize visits to schools, persuade principals and teachers to include in their educational program courses of military history and training.”
While the rain and cold envelop the city and numerous volunteers of the Association took part in military training organized by the Ministry of defense, coordinator of the initiative Waldemar Zubek says that he feels important. “No organization will be fully part of the territorial defense Forces, but every person can submit its own individual application. In OTK in this issue are subject to the same rules as in the regular army, — said Zubek. — Therefore, in order to join our ranks, you must obtain the consent of the commander. If the person is a member of any political party or political movement, he refused, unless he decides to leave politics”.
The last statement is made as if specially to temper concerns related to the fact that the Troops of territorial defense can turn into a personal army of defense Minister Anthony Macarevich (Antoni Macierewicz), or his faithful companion Jaroslaw Kaczynski (jarosław Kaczynski), the leader of the party “law and justice in government.” The concerns are that and the fuzzy admission criteria volunteers OTK can take features ultra-nationalist, xenophobic and racist movements such as the National-radical camp.
Mar, one of the only two girls present here in training day, do not say anything new: “all people Have different hair color, the same way each adheres to their views. The main thing — to have the same goals and protect their homeland”. However, more alarming are the statements of official sources.
The commander Zuchowski mentions a new threat prospects, claiming that “in accordance with the new pending law, Polish soldiers, part of any Association or organization, if you want to join the Polish armed forces must warn the commander.”
Therefore, he is not obliged to leave his political activities, as claimed by Zubek. Zelenetsky Conrad (Konrad Zieleniecki), the representative of the party “law and justice” in Bialystok, finally destroys any doubts. “A far-right organization with enthusiasm to the idea of participation in the armed Forces of the territorial defence, and, in my opinion, this is a good way to use their Patriotic ardor in a practical way, which will only benefit our country.”
Macierewicz strategist behind the establishment of a fifth armed force in the country, and a close adviser to Kaczynski — known for its political right-wing past and the fact that many young ultranationalists consider him their hero. Thus, if it is impossible to predict what would happen if the populist conservative Catholic government decides to enlist and mobilize the numerous ultra-right Polish organization, there are grounds to believe that Macarevich and Troops of territorial defense will be the most legitimate of their binder link.
The claims of those who see in the government’s decision to increase the annual defence budget or the popularity of the paramilitary organizations and the draft territorial defense Forces another embodiment of the tightening of the Polish state policy in the sphere of law and order, Zuchowski rejects: “We are accused of militarization of society, — he says with disgust. But our organization is engaged in basic combat training”.