Poland lost a feminist, gay rights ally and social welfare advocate when a plane carrying dozens of Polish political and military leaders crashed in Russia on Saturday. Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, the deputy prime minister in 2004 and 2005, was 59 years old. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
Jaruga-Nowacka was first elected to Parliament in 1993. She became a vice president of the Parliamentary Committee for Education, Science and Technical Development and joined the Parliamentary Women’s Group.
“When a woman raises her voice during political disputes, it will be said: ‘Well, a woman. She has gone into hysterics.’ At the same time when a man bangs his fist on the rostrum, which happens quite often, he will be quoted by name, because there was good cause for his indignation. We, women, we still are a collective subject.”
She was a spokesperson for school based sexual education, free contraceptives and legal abortion. Abortion is illegal in Poland unless the woman’s life is in danger. An outspoken advocate of LGBTQ rights, Jaruga-Nowacka regularly spoke out at gay pride events and suffered verbal abuse from extremist nationalists and Christian groups.
“We are for democracy. We are for protection of all human rights, not only for some groups who are in the majority in Poland. All citizens have the right to choose their own way of life.”
The loss of this beautiful person is a tragedy not only for Poland but for the whole world. The envoy from Poland was traveling to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacre of some 20,000 Polish officers by the Soviets during World War II. According to Russian officials, all 97 people on board were killed. The magnitude of this loss is unimaginable. My thoughts are with their families and friends and the people of Poland.