Sunday, 9 April 2006

Catalonia: the stateless nation of the Mediterranean

I have just come back from a week’s holiday in Poland. What a beautiful country and how friendly its people are! During my holidays I have learnt more about the tragic history of Poland, and I have come to the conclusion that we (Catalonia) share with the Poles one unlucky fact: our neighbours have tried for centuries (and still continue to do so in our case) to wipe us off from the map and the history books.

This surely must the reason why Spaniards refer to Catalans as “polacos” (Polish) in their football stadiums and other public demonstrations? Yes, my dear readers. In case you are not aware, let me inform you about this particular facet of Spanish life.

If you attend a football game in many stadiums in Spain or watch on TV, you may identify the following chant:
“Es polaco el que no bote, eh, eh, eh!” (Jump if you are not a Pole). People jump vivaciously during this chant to prove that they are not ‘polacos’ which, bizarrely, is meant as if it were an insult.

Why they call us ‘polacos’ I never understood. Our language has no Slavic roots, neither there has never been any traceable migration movement between our two nations. (Excluding the fact that many [Sephardite] Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the period known as the Reconquista moved to Central Europe areas, including nowadays Poland and were victims of the Nazi Holocaust).

This week however, while visiting Poland and learning about its history, I understood why: Like Poland, our neighbours have tried to annihilate our culture, language and identity. For what Poland had to endure from Prussia/Germany and Russia during centuries, we have had to suffer from Spain and France. And, in my view, that’s why they call us ‘polacos’.

Let’s hope that when push comes to shove we get the same help from the international community as Poland did after WWII and one day we can be a free nation in Europe.