Despite the flame-throwing rhetoric of their leaders, conservative supporters of Poland’s ruling party are dependent on millions of euros in aid, and don’t want to risk it.
The twin steeples of Saint Stanislaus, a hulking, red-brick Catholic church, are visible for miles across the corn fields and cow pastures of this conservative area of eastern Poland, a bastion of support for the country’s nationalist governing party.
That party is “conservative and Catholic, and people here are very attached to national traditions and the church,” said Dariusz Sikorski, the elected chief of a county that gave more than 90 percent of its vote to the party’s victorious candidate in a presidential election last year.
They are also deeply attached, however, to cash from the European Union. Taxpayers in the 27-nation bloc provided nearly $150 million to build a nearby highway and millions more to help pay for a children’s playground, water pumping stations, a sewage system, clean-energy projects and improvements to the local school.
With Poland now locked in a tumultuous struggle with Europe over the rule of law that has raised the possibility, albeit very small, of the country being forced to leave the bloc, the government in Warsaw is wrestling with tension between nationalist instincts suffused with religious faith and the reality of economic and political self-interest.
How that tension resolves itself will decide the outcome of the European Union’s biggest crisis since Britain voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum.
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