Cities in Poland have illuminated buildings in rainbow colours in a powerful display of solidarity with the country’s embattled LGBT+ community.
Parts of Poland have become harsh and unwelcoming places for LGBT+ people in recent years, with a third of the country declaring itself to be “LGBT free zones” in February.
President Andrzej Duda later secured re-election in July after he repeatedly targeted the LGBT+ community during his campaign.
Now, Warsaw, Gdansk, Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw and other smaller towns have lit up some of their buildings in the rainbow colours to show solidarity with the LGBT+ community, Reuters reports.
In Warsaw, the Palace of Culture was illuminated in the rainbow colours following an order from liberal mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.
Trzaskowski faced backlash from conservative Poles when he signed an LGBT+ charter, which pledged to introduced LGBT+ education in Warsaw schools and committed to creating a shelter for homeless LGBT+ people.
However, activists have been critical of the mayor, and while many welcomed the decision to illuminate buildings in the rainbow colours, others urged leaders to do something tangible for the LGBT+ community.
LGBT+ activists in Poland urge officials to make tangible changes to improve queer lives.
“This is obviously a symbolic gesture and we welcome it when it comes from mayors of smaller cities and smaller towns,” Hubert Sobecki, an activist with Love Does Not Exclude told Reuters.
“We expect more from someone who… pledged to do something tangible for the community,” he added, criticising the fact that there has been “absolutely no action from the municipality” since the mayor signed the LGBT+ charter.
Meanwhile, activist Bartosz Staszewski said the decision to illuminate a bridge over the Vistula river in Warsaw reminded him of a trans person who died by suicide at the site.
“I have such terribly bad associations when now the same bridges are simply rainbow-lit and nothing more will happen in Warsaw,” he said.
Many LGBT+ people in Poland have reported feeling unsafe and unwelcome in their home country in recent months, as anti-LGBT+ sentiment is on the rise.
This was exacerbated when Duda won re-election after he bolstered his campaign by attacking same-sex marriage, adoption and gay “ideology”.