Welcome to the series #EVERYDAYHEROES in which we introduce exceptional members of our network. Through pop culture, we discovered that heroes fly, have superpowers, come from another planet, and wear capes and costumes, but there are other, real heroes. Heroes we are surrounded by every day, who raise their voices in times of injustice and fight for the rights of all of us. Who look the same as us, who express their superpower by fighting every day for a better and democratic society. Everyday heroes, that we have to talk about. Follow us on our Instagram to catch the next interview among the first ones.
Another Everyday Hero is Jakub Kocjan from Poland.
Can you introduce yourself?
Hello! My name is Jakub, I’m 24 years old and since 2017 I’ve been fighting for rule of law in Poland in the Foundation Akcja Demokracja (Action Democracy). Through those years I have been combining studying law at Warsaw University, global business, finance, and governance at SGH Warsaw School of Economics, and a regular job in Akcja as a data analyst and campaigner for rule of law. We built a strong organization on the basis of half a million mailing list and individual donations from our activists. In 2017 we organized protests in defense of the Supreme Court’s “Chain of lights” which spread over the country and we have significantly slowed down the destruction of the Polish judiciary system.
This issue of democracy is also important for my academic life – I’m a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Legal Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), preparing a thesis about the crisis of rule of law in Poland and the USA.
I look for inspiration in traveling (I love the Middle East and Andalusia!). I also love theatre, swimming, and the sauna.
What do you consider your biggest success?
After 2017’s big protests, which blocked the overtaking of the Supreme Court for more than a year and gave time for the European Commission to intervene, I still have been working on the rule of law crisis for the following years.
Among others, I have been a coordinator of the workgroup of Agreement for Rule of Law since 2021. It is a coalition of 7 NGOs and 10 democratic political parties which declared cooperation in order to restore the rule of law in Poland. We prepared our own draft bill implementing several judgments of ECHR and ECJ (regarding Polish rule of law cases) and unblocking European funds for Poland. To work efficiently with crucial politicians and lawyers, who are sometimes two-three times older than me, I had to establish my position thanks to gaining experience through the years, to show objectivity and negotiation skills as every political party had its own ideas. Eventually, 8 political parties formally submitted the draft bill in the Parliament, and even if due to the far-right majority it had not a chance to pass, it was an important sign for the future – we are ready and united to restore the rule of law in Poland after next elections.
What does the word DEMOCRACY mean to you?
To me, Democracy means that everyone has some impact on the direction of society. That’s the reason why I have resigned from a classic legal career to fight for democracy in Poland and develop civil society in Poland. I strongly believe that organized citizens are stronger than authoritarian power. I conducted a lot of get-out-to-vote campaigns, especially among the youth and a higher turnout is crucial for the maintenance of democracy in the XXI century, but also in my opinion the battle for democracy takes place every day – not only during an election day.
Who do you consider your Everyday Hero and why?
I believe that Everyday Hero is somebody who has the courage to fight for his or her own issue. I appreciate the amazing work of all grassroot movements activists. Everyone has their field of struggle to make society a more fair place to live. Fighting for LGBT+ inclusion, people with disabilities, reproductive rights, more accessible education, and healthcare are of the same importance as the rule of law – they are different sides of the same fight.
What does the concept of Everyday Hero mean to you?
To me, the concept of an Everyday Hero is the name of a person who loves freedom and justice and promotes these big ideas in his or her own surroundings. I have in mind Poles who opened their homes for Ukrainian refugees when the government failed to take care of them and brave women and men who support the needy with abortion pills in Poland, where women are deprived of their fundamental rights. And about LGBT+ activists who organize pride marches even in small towns, where you can still get hit with a stone for a rainbow flag, which I personally experienced.
I extremely appreciate the courage of all Ukrainians fighting in various fields for independence and global democracy against the fascist Russian regime, as well as all first responders as nurses during the pandemic, whose work is still not appreciated enough.
Why did you become a member of EDYN?
The mission of EDYN is particularly important for my region. With far-right governments attacking the very core of democracy – the independence of judges, we have to be united to stop the authoritarian coup. Thanks to EDYN, I can reach people with different backgrounds but similar values, who are engaged in different fields to fight for democracy and human rights. I believe that in the future we can change the way of doing politics in our region and try to solve real challenges.