Yesterday, on 1st November, crowds gathered outside of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland and in town squares of tens of other cities.
A few days earlier a tweet was published, marking the moment we all feared since the abortion-banning so-called ruling. The first pregnant woman died because she was denied medical care because doctors were terrified of the new law and decided to wait until foetal heartbeat had stopped. She passed away on 22nd September, due to sepsis.
Her name was Izabela. She was 30. She left behind a husband and a daughter.
1st November is All Saints Day in Poland – a day traditionally devoted to visiting graves of loved ones and silently contemplating life and death. The atmosphere of the day was almost palpable during the gatherings.
I was in Warsaw, outside the Constitutional Tribunal. At 7 PM people started pouring in from all directions – marching silently, some with tears in their eyes, other staring blankly ahead. Almost all were holding candles, which were later put behind rails separating the public from the actual fence of the Tribunal. Few were also holding home-made signs, with writings varying from anger at the medical professionals to calling the government and politicised judges of the Tribunal murderers.
On the strip of pavement between the two railings, police officers stood, just as silent as the gathering crowd. They looked at people putting lights behind the railing, among leaves that fell from the trees – it is autumn, after all. While watching that scene, I was sure the police will be picking up the candles and throwing them away claiming fire hazard. To my surprise, the opposite happened. Officers were kneeling down behind the railing, brushing the leaves away and making safe space for more candles, moving some away from the railing and making sure nobody gets burned.
The air was filled with indescribable sadness, silent fury and frustration.
While navigating the crowd, I heard a man saying “You know, with COVID getting so bad again I was planning on not buying a single candle and just staying at home this year. And look at me – I am so f***g p***d, I just cannot sit around”. With time, a murmur of emotional conversations grew and hanged above the crowd.
“They got what they wanted.”
“Honestly, let’s just move the fuck out of this hellhole.”
“Maybe now they will see that anti-choicers are just murderers.”
“They are killing people at the border, and now killing women in the country as well. Cathotaliban”.
I noticed some familiar faces in the crowd – those that I managed to spot among the tens of people cramped on the pavement. We only nodded to each other, mostly without saying a word. Everyone was overwhelmed with grief, feeling the cold knot in their stomachs. While a turmoil of emotions was happening inside of me, the only word echoing in my mind was “Why”.
Izabela’s family has released a statement, asking to not use her death politically. We will honour their request and carry her memory silently with us while going back to our work, only more angry and more determined. So that no woman suffers Izabela’s fate ever again.
By Antonina Lewandowska, ASTRA Network Coordinator and