A dozen Virgin Mary figurines decorate Robert Biedron’s office in Warsaw, picked from about 400 or so he’s gathered from across the world. Some show her smiling or suffering, some with dark or pale skin and others skinny, plump or even pregnant.
Such a collection might not be unusual in Poland, a devout bastion of the Catholic Church and birthplace of Pope John Paul II. What’s unusual is the collector: a gay atheist who wants to pull his country back into the European mainstream and away from the pious nationalism and homophobia that’s permeated society under the government that won power in 2015 and is seeking re-election this year.
Biedron, 43, is the first openly LGBT politician in Poland, which has emerged as a key battleground in the war between the rival political forces fighting over the European Union’s future. His party, Spring, is less than three months old, but opinion polls suggest it could get to play kingmaker should a pro-EU alliance of opposition parties eat into support for the governing Law & Justice party.
Poland is the EU’s “enfant terrible,” according to Biedron, as the government puts billions of euros of subsidies at risk by clashing with Brussels over everything from the independence of Polish courts to refugees. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has stated that his “dream” is to re-Christianize the demoralized continent, which he says has ditched its traditional values in the name of kowtowing to liberal forces. Read more via Bloomberg