Global Scream! Polish Protest Art in Berlin

Global Scream! Polish Protest Art in Berlin

by Anna Krenz

The text will be commented by the political scientist Isabell Lorey and discussed by the collective Collages Féministes Marseille and the artist Tina Keserovic during the event “Local political spaces and translocal solidarity – feminist and aesthetic interventions”. Feel invited to join our online event on October 18, at 6 pm.

Polish, German and French translation see below

Prologue: Poland political background

At the end of 2015, the conservative right-wing party Law and Justice (PiS) came to power and changed everything. With a majority in the Polish parliament, as in Hungary, it quickly turned Poland from a democracy into a dictatorship (BlitzDiktartur). The rule of law, the tripartite division of power, the media, the courts, education and, of course, culture – are already in the hands of the authorities. Women’s rights are being violated, children’s rights are being disregarded, society is being divided and radicalised.

In line with the doctrine of ‘divide and conquer’, through propaganda on national television, the PIS party promotes violence and hate speech against ‘enemies’ – women, the LGBT+ community, people with refugee experience on the Polish-Belarusian border. To the venerable group of Poland’s ‘enemies’, Germany has been added once again. The reparations for the destruction during World War II demanded by Jarosław Kaczyński in the amount of EUR 1.3 trillion are absurd, but they are also a political ploy on which Kaczyński wants to rebuild sympathy for his party.

Today, in the 21st century, Poland is again behind a curtain, no longer an iron curtain but a concertina – a curtain of shame made of barbed wire. The Polish government works closely with the Catholic Church and organisations such as Ordo Iuris (part of Agenda Europe). The Catholic Church has existed in a „marriage” with governments in Poland for a thousand years. This is not surprising when you look at the fairly modern history of Poland – partitions, world wars, communist rule by Russia. The Church gave hope, was a support, helped to maintain Polishness in the difficult times of „storm and thrust” (Sturm und Drang). Today, fewer and fewer people take an active part in church life, fewer and fewer young men are opting for the priesthood. However, the moss-covered church, as a mainstay of patriarchy, is holding up well – thanks to funds flowing not only from the pockets of the poor faithful, but above all from the state. It is not only in Poland that conservative Christians and related organisations are growing in strength, trying to impose their religious values on society, which are based not on love for one’s neighbour, but on discrimination against women or the LGBT+ community. 

Action and reaction

In April 2016, the „Stop Abortion” Citizens’ Initiative Committee launched another battle for a total ban on abortion in Poland. The Ordo Iuris Institute and the Pro-Life Foundation collected a sufficient number of signatures of support for the bill, thanks to which the Parliament was obliged to consider the bill on banning abortion.

In response, a widespread feminist civic movement, Dziewuchy Dziewuchom (Girls for Girls), was formed. It originated on Facebook, first as a single group, joined by over 100,000 people in two days. In Poland, activism is based on Facebook communication and this is how the modern new wave of feminism, which I call #HashtagFeminism, came into being. In the days that followed, local groups began to emerge and quickly moved into real life. Also, in Berlin – on 2 April 2016 I started a Facebook group called Dziewuchy Berlin (Girls Berlin). Our first big action was Black Monday.

Example: 3.10.2016 | Black Protest / Black Monday, Polish Women’s Strike

Black Monday was a nationwide women’s strike, the culmination of the international Black Protest solidarity action, a reaction to attempts to tighten the abortion law. It was a grassroot, cross-political action bringing together women of all ages, professions and backgrounds. The Black Protest was a national and international phenomenon: it mobilised thousands of women across the country and abroad in a very short period of time.

The Black Protest in Berlin was organised by four of us, quite spontaneously. Initially we planned to do a demonstration on Warschauer Str, but when it turned out that the number of interested people (on Facebook) reached 2,000, I decided to use the stairs on the Warsaw Bridge. And it worked – the stairs themselves became a stage, surrounded by the audience – participants and demonstrators dressed in black, who created the scenery for this ‘performance’. Just like in a theatre.

Activists, members of the collective Aunt Basia or author and feminist Margarete Stokowski spoke at the protest. The band Two Times Twice made a spontaneous debut. Their song ‘Woman Scorned’ became our musical manifesto. Women, men and children came to the protest; Poles and Germans, but also people from other countries. It was a turning point – the biggest Polish protest in Berlin, which showed the strength of Polish women, was the beginning of a new (not the first!) wave of international solidarity across borders.

Fotos: Black Protest, 3.10.2016, Foto: Maciej Soja,

Feminists of Berlin, unite!

As Polish women living in Berlin, we are also involved in the fight for women’s and LGBT+ rights in Germany, because it affects us directly. German abortion law is not perfect – for 150 years pregnant people have been subject to penal code regulating access to abortion. Together we fought for the deletion of paragraph 219a, and there is still paragraph 218 left to be deleted. As Polish migrants, we have established ourselves over the years – we no longer ask only for gestures of solidarity with women in our home country, but we fight side by side with our sisters in Germany for our rights here, we promote creative actions and protest activities that are recognised by the feminist community in Berlin. During these six years we have gone from being the “inferior sister from the east” to simply being sisters, which is not at all obvious for migrant women in Germany.

We have been part of the Bündnis für sexuelle Selbstbestimmung coalition for several years, with which we actively work for sexual self-determination, we are part of the Berlin feminist community. And it is diverse and colourful, which is an advantage, but sometimes a burden. Berlin has a history of division and so does the feminist scene – diverse but divided. Every year there are several different marches and demonstrations in Berlin for International Women’s Day (now Women’s Struggle Day / Frauenkampftag). In 2017, we managed to persuade the organisers of the Frauen*kampftag march and the Alliance of Internationalist Feminists to come together for the culmination of the marches in one place – at our Polish protest at Oranienplatz (organised in solidarity with the Irish women of Berlin-Ireland Pro-Choice Solidarity). It was quite a feat that we did not manage to repeat.

That is why I came up with a different idea in 2019. I got involved in a new initiative, the Feministischer Frauen*Streik, and at the German-wide organisational meeting in February 2019, I proposed two ideas for actions for Women’s Day, which were voted as the flagship for the German Women’s Strike. I prepared the concepts, posters and texts.

Example: #IchStreike, 2019

One idea was the #IchStreike action – a symbolic strike, a decentralised action in order not to organise a third march, in which any person can take part (all that is needed is a chair and a piece of paper with ‘#IchStreike’ written on it) and can do so anywhere – preferably in the least expected and ‘inconvenient’ places in public space. For in Germany, a political strike is forbidden, and the Berlin authorities that year made a “present” to us all – by making 8 March a day off from (professional) work. The #IchStreike action was carried out in Berlin and in many German cities.

Poster for #IchStreike, 2019, Concept, graphic: Anna Krenz

Example: #GlobalScream

The second idea arose in response to the question – if not in one place, then how can we symbolically unite Berlin’s divided feminist community, if only for one day a year? If only for a minute. This is how Global Scream (Aufschrei Global) was created – a minute of screaming by women, by people, expressing different emotions, grief, rage, anger, emotions that we know, although each person has different reasons. Any person can scream, regardless of nationality, place of residence, gender and ideological differences. The name ‘Aufschrei’ refers to and honours the German predecessor of #MeToo – that is, the #Aufschrei action, popularised by Anne Wizorek.

We persuaded the organisers of both marches to hold a Global Scream action at the same hour (5 pm). It worked. In Berlin alone at 5 pm that day, 25 000 people screamed for one minute. It was a minute full of power and emotion. The oxygen delivered to our brains during the screaming created euphoria and released the energy to continue the fight. The #GlobalScream action also took place in other German cities, as well as in Poznan (Black Venus Protest) and Krakow (Sisters of the River). It is impossible to describe the impression, the emotion and the power of this minute. Global Scream, our flagship action, has become ours for 8 March, but we also scream at other actions and demonstrations. In Poland, Global Scream only became popular a few years later, mainly thanks to an activist who claimed authorship of the action and unfortunately completely changed its context. I hope that one day activists will start respecting the copyright of female artists, this can only enrich us and show that the feminist slogans on our banners are not empty.

We don’t even have to speak the same language to become one voice. A multi-voice of women. Global Scream, poster for the Women’s Strike (Frauen*Streik) on 8 March 2019, Concept, graphic design: Anna Krenz

Art is the conscience of humanity

During the communist era in Poland, art was part of the socialist party’s propaganda and free art was censored. However, artists created politically engaged art, openly provoking or hiding ‘politically incorrect’ content between the lines. The political role of art is very much needed again today. As an artist, I have always addressed political, social and religious themes in my work. Since I have become involved in activism, I am practically still doing the same thing – engaged art, only that it is shown on the street, seen by crowds and not by a narrow circle of people interested in art. As an artist, I see this as a challenge to myself and my work, to seek a definition of art.

Painting of Anna Krenz as a visual element at a demonstration, 17.1.2021, Photo: Maciej Soja

Polish language of protest in Berlin, Hańba (shame), banner, 17.1.2021, Photo: Maciej Soja

Opening of the exhibition ‘One Thousand and One Words. Polish protest art in Berlin’ by Anna Krenz and performance by Gosia Gajdemska, 2017, Galerie Schau Fenster, Berlin. Photo: Maciej Soja

I use the same tools, materials and art forms that I use to create art shown in gallery exhibitions – from printmaking, illustration, photography, posters, to performance, film and music. For each protest or action, I come up with a separate visual concept specific to the theme, sometimes referencing previous work I have created (and continue to create) in the context of the art world and galleries. In 2017, I decided to move things (banners, posters, prints) from the street to the art gallery to see how and if the definition of art would change. Today, such exhibitions are also organised in Poland.

One of the projects that I have transformed and developed over the years is the ‘Polish Wife’, the elements of which have now become the Embassy of Polish Women (Botschaft der Polinnen*). In 2003, outraged by the fact that Polish women were being ‘sold’ on the Internet like objects on matrimonial websites, I decided to raise the subject to the absurd and play with stereotypes with a sneer. I created a website (still in html) where you can order Polish wives according to your liking – through a form, choose the right elements like hair (all blonde), legs, clothes, body form or stereotypical job of your dream Polish wife and order. I “sold” hundreds of Polish wives, all beautiful, faithful, hard-working. Many orderers believed they would get a real woman; they received a PDF of the drawing by email.

Screenshot of the „Polish Wife” project website, Anna Krenz, 2003

Part of the exhibition was an installation made of a 2x2x2m structure and lace curtain walls, where you could go in and put together a Polish wife in peace. These laces, by the way, accompany me in my activist activities all the time. I use lace and lace curtains to make banners. Lace is a very feminine material, matching the demands for women’s rights. A lace curtain is a furnishing piece that covers the interior (of a home) but also allows you to see the outside world in a different way. You can see the world differently through my banners. I hope so. Looking at urban space as an architect, I emphasise the contrast of lace with the brutalism of concrete and stone, and the active role of the lace (the banner) rather than the passive role (hanging in the window).

InstallationPolish Wife” by Anny Krenz during exhibition Hack.Fem.East in Kunstraum Kreuzberg, 2008 (Foto: Anna Krenz)

Botschaft der Polinnen*

Step by step, the ruling Law and Justice party has taken over all state offices, state-owned companies, political, social and cultural institutions in Poland but also abroad – for example embassies or cultural institutes. It has also created new institutions like the Pilecki Institute in Berlin. The former Polish ambassador in Berlin, whose wife is president of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, not only expressed himself negatively about German culture and politics, about part of the Polish migrant community in Berlin during his years in office, but also effectively closed the doors of the embassy to that part of the Polish community that does not ‘adhere’ to the values of the ruling party.

This is why I decided to open our own Embassy – the Embassy of Polish Women* / Botschaft der Polinnen* (Botschaft in German has two meanings: as embassy and as message). The official opening of the Embassy of Polish Women* took place on 22 June 2020 in the Haus der Statistik in Berlin.

Opening of the Embassy of Polish Women*, 20.6.2020, Foto: Maciej Soja

Botschaft der Polinnen* is a physical and metaphysical spatial installation, a meeting and discussion place, exhibition space, backstage for art, performances and concerts. Created from lace walls on a 2x2x2m skeletal structure. All people can be Polish Women Ambassadors, regardless of gender, nationality or age. The Embassy is mobile, has no fixed address, and appears in various configurations and locations.

Polish Embassy: Global Scream during the performance ‘Voices’, Safe Abortion Day, 28.9.2020, Berlin. Photo: Maciej Soja

Fragment of the script (storyboard) for the performance ‘Voices’, concept and drawings: Anna Krenz

Berlin Bloody Weeks

The Embassy of Polish Women* accompanies us at many actions, protests and exhibitions. Thousands of people took to the streets in Poland after the announcement on 22.10.2020 of the ruling of the Constitutional Court (whose president is Julia Przyłębska, wife of the Polish ambassador in Berlin at the time) banning abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. Also, in Berlin. We organised “Bloody Weeks” of solidarity actions with Poland.

Originally it was supposed to be one week of solidarity actions, but nine long Bloody Weeks came out (until 13 December 2020). As it was lockdown time, we proposed various forms of protest – from large demonstrations, marches, theatre (“Dziady” / „All Saints”), visits to the Embassy or Julia P.’s residence, to online actions (letter writing, reading Polish poetry), etc., to show the multiplicity of forms of civic political action. It was actually an art festival of resistance (not #BerlinArtWeek, but Berlin Bloody Weeks).

Graphics for events – Bloody Weeks, 10.10.2020-13.12.2020, Graphics: Anna Krenz

Example: 1.11.2020 | All Saints / Dziady / Totenfeier

After organising several demonstrations, I decided to propose a different event, not a classic demonstration with talking heads and shouts. But again, a theatre. ‘Instant’ theatre, created from scratch the evening before. In activism, sometimes you have to act fast. Immediate reactions require concentrated action. To emphasise the importance of culture and art in activist struggle, on 1 November 2020, the traditional Polish day of all saints, we organised “Dziady” (“Totenfeier”), a mystical performance based on Adam Mickiewicz’s “Dziady” (the most famous poet of the Romantic period in Poland) evoking the spirits of women from different historical periods. Characters who made history with their courage and passion, such as the witch Jagnieszka, the Polish activist Rosa Luxemburg or the cultural scientist Maria Janion, were reunited with contemporary female warriors in a theatrical feminist séance. The performance combined Polish and German poetry of the Romantic period, written by men at the time, but I paraphrased and feminised it. Goethe’s ‘Prometheus’ became Promethea. Mickiewicz’s ‘Revenge on the Enemy’ became Revenge on the Patriarchy. The performance took place at the Monument to the Polish Soldier and the German Anti-Fascist in Volkspark Friedrichshain.

1.11.2020, All Saints, Foto: MACIEJ SOJA

A few days later, also as part of Bloody Weeks, we decided to celebrate Poland’s Independence Day (and the anniversary of the end of the First World War) – 11 November. On this day, with the government’s permission, nationalists in brown and green shirts march through the streets of Warsaw. This is appalling, given Poland’s history. That is why we decided to celebrate Polish Woman’s Independence Day in Berlin. As part of the celebrations, we solemnly but unofficially renamed the Polish Soldier and German Anti-Fascist Monument to the Monument to People Fighting for Our and Your Freedom, because we thought that this monument, like many others, honours only men, fighting men. Not a word about women, about the LGBT+ community, that is, about people who were victims of armed conflicts but who also fought for freedom. No monuments are erected to them. That is why we decided to commemorate these people.

Lace banner ‘Free Pol(s)ka’, photo: Maciej Soja,

UNforgotten Heroines

For several years there has been an ongoing discussion in Berlin about the necessity, the need and the way to commemorate the Polish victims of Nazism. This heated and emotionally difficult discussion usually took place behind closed doors in political offices or, at best, in lecture halls or universities.

Its symbolic end is the recent resolution of the Bundestag giving the green light for the conception, construction and establishment of a memorial to the Polish victims of Nazism. However, this debate was very exclusionary for the heroines and victims of the war, but also for women fighting against nationalism today.  The debate about Polish memorials in Berlin should continue with the inclusion of ‘invisible’ – women, LGBT+ people, migrant women from Poland. The transformation and symbolic unveiling of the Monument was the start of this debate.

“Women’s Martial Law”, Last Bloody Weeks demonstration, Monument to People Fighting for Our and Your Freedom, Volkspark Friedrichshain, 13 December 2020, Photo: Maciej Soja

Part of the fight for women’s and minority rights, the fight against patriarchy, is to talk about women who are forgotten, ignored. No one will do it for us. In the latest project ‘Missing part of history. Irena Bobowska, the forgotten heroine’, held in September 2022 in Berlin, based on the biography of the Poznan poet, editor and anti-fascist Irena Bobowska, we touched on topics not only about history but also about the present, about us. In September 1942, Irena Bobowska, a young poet from Poznan, faced the guillotine in Plötzensee prison. At the age of 22, she was sentenced to death for publishing the independence newspaper ‘Pobudka’. The project was inspired by Bobowska’s poem, ‘because I am learning’, which we read at various demonstrations and actions. The poem proves to be still relevant today. The September project consisted of 4 events in 4 different locations. Each evening with a different title consisted of an exhibition, a performative reading of Bobowska’s poems, discussions with panellists and concerts.

Performative reading of a poem by Irena Bobowska at the Polish Embassy, 8 March 2021, Berlin. Script (storyboard): Anna Krenz, photo: Gabriella Falana

In the face of the war in Ukraine, talking and addressing war-related topics through art and discussion is much needed, especially for German-Polish relations. We learn from herstory and history, it turns out that everything has already been done, nothing changes, testosterone-fuelled patriarchy and tanks continue to destroy and kill.

Opening of the project ‘Irena Bobowska, the forgotten heroine’, 1.9.2022, Regenbogenfabrik, Berlin. Photo: Ela Kargol

Irena Bobowska, forgotten heroine, graphic design: Anna Krenz

Polish-German sisterhood

Transnational solidarity is very important to us. For many years this solidarity was one-sided and we, as Polish women living and working in Berlin, were its starting point. However, for several years now we have been working on building a mutual relationship, a two-sided solidarity but also on a paradigm shift and empowering Polish migrant women in Berlin.

We received the Green Pussyhat award in 2018 and the Clara Zetkin award in 2021. And now we have decided to take it to the next level and award our prizes – the Siostry*Preis for good Polish-German sisterhood and feminist cooperation. The basis of the awards is the Botschaft der Polinnen* – Treaty on good sisterhood and feminist cooperation / Ein Vertrag über gute Schwesternschaft und feministische Zusammenarbeit. The award ceremony and concerts took place on Safe Abortion Day on 28 September 2022.

Siostry*Preis, graphic design: Anna Krenz

No epilogue – a future beyond borders

Approximately 2 million Poles live abroad. The Polish diaspora has historical roots and many waves of migration reflecting different political situations. Polish women abroad are doubly discriminated against because of the patriarchal system and because they are migrants. Both their countries of residence and their home country show no interest and notoriously neglect them. In order to represent Polish migrant women and take care of Polish women abroad, we created the Polish Women’s Council+ on 8 March 2021, which includes more than 40 activists from 13 countries. If something is missing, it should be created. This is also what art is for.

Art is the conscience of humanity.

Anna Krenz – Wolna Polka, Foto: Maciej Soja

About Dziewuchy

Dziewuchy Berlin is a queer feminist collective that fights for the rights of women, LGBT+ in Poland, Germany and abroad. The first and largest demonstration of solidarity with women in Poland so far was the Black Protest (Black Monday), which we organised on 3 October 2016 in Berlin. Since then, we have been active in Berlin, organising demonstrations, pickets, exhibitions and artistic actions as a sign of solidarity with free Poland (and free Polish women) – from reproductive rights to free courts. We write articles for the press, letters, sign petitions, speak at demonstrations and take part in discussions about Poland, and constantly inform people in Germany about the struggle of women and LGBT+ people for their rights and about the situation in Poland. At the same time, we stand in solidarity with other migrant women on the streets of Berlin, and we are involved in German campaigns to fight for women’s rights in Germany (e.g. Paragraf 218 and 219a).


2018 – The Feminist Green Pussyhat Award for Dziewuchy Berlin von BÜNDNIS90 / DIE GRÜNEN
2021 – Clara Zetkin – Frauenpreis / die LINKE

Polish, German and French translation of the text

Further Links:

More about the Black Monday protest:

Online documentation of Dziewuchys action: