The taste of cider, or hard cider as Americans call it, is much more gentle and pleasant than the taste of beer, but also much sweeter and coarser than that of wine. However, for many Poles it tastes better than anything else this summer, and that’s because it has the flavour of patriotism.
Following the sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union on Russian officials and companies, Russia enforced a ban on imports of fruit and vegetables from Poland that could cost the Polish economy over $670 million. Since the very beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, Poland, represented by its Foreign Affairs Minister Radek
Sikorski, has been at the forefront of negotiations in Crimea, adopting the firmest and most hostile stance toward Russia and urging the rest of Europe to do the same. There are no doubts that the embargo on Polish products is a retaliation for the sanctions that Poland pushed for so adamantly.
Last year, Poland became the world’s largest exporter of apples, leaving China in second place. During the 2012/2013 season, it exported 1.2 million tonnes of apples, over 57% of which travelled to Russia. “We have to face the facts,” says Marek Sawicki, Polish Agriculture Minister. “If Poland is the first one on the front between Russia and Ukraine, we should not be surprised by the actions of the Russian side.”
It is no secret that Russia is not popular among Poles. This spring, the Pew Research Center published a study showing that 81% of Poles had an unfavorable view of Russia, the highest percentage in the world. Also, 86% of Polish citizens had no confidence in Vladimir Putin to make good foreign policy decisions. The recent developments further aggravated these statistics. However the ban on exports of Poles’ beloved fruit has spurred a stronger reaction than expected.
“Eat Apples to Annoy Putin” or “One Apple a Day Keeps Putin Away” are slogans that went viral in Poland and Europe. Polish politicians, TV presenters, journalists and other public figures, including the President, posted pictures of themselves eating apples or drinking cider on Twitter and Facebook. The hashtag #EatApples (#JedzJabłka) can be seen not only on social networks, but also in advertisements, newspapers and on TV screens in public transportation. The campaign has been picked up by international media: BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and others wrote about the initiative.
Spending the summer in Warsaw, I myself decided to turn my patriotism into action and support the Polish economy by drinking cider and eating apples. It’s quite a pleasurable way of “defending” one’s country! I even bought some for my friends.
Over the past few years, the government has made efforts to diversify the exports of agricultural products. Even though a large part of Polish apples used to be sent to Russia, the big picture is not that drastic. Russia was receiving 7% of all Polish agricultural exports, while European Union countriesreceive 71% of exported Polish agri-food products. Additionally, Poland is now turning towards Chinese and South-East Asian markets to sell the surplus of its apples.
The conflict between Russia and the Western world has once again become more serious. We are far from a second Cold War, but the repercussions of the hostilities are real and can be felt on an everyday basis, both by Russia and by the other players. The embargo is a way of targeting Poland for its especially strong efforts to help Ukraine. So if you feel like you could have a refreshing drink or maybe eat something healthy, why don’t you join us and snatch up the apple in Putin’s eye? Eat Polish apples and checkout these funny selfies of Poles showing their resistance to the Russian retaliation!