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Poles cool on cultural hero Polanski

In his home country, Polanksi once enjoyed widespread support. Now, public figures scramble to keep his scandal from affecting the national image.

The letter called for the president and government, “to undertake immediate and energetic actions aimed at freeing Roman Polanski, a citizen of the Polish Republic, and preventing his extradition to the United States of America.”

However, in recent days Polish opinion has begun to stiffen against the renowned director, with many newspaper opinion pages calling for him to return to the U.S. to face legal proceedings.

For one thing, the overt support of Polanski did not mesh with parliament's recent decision to approve chemical castration for pedophiles, making Poland the toughest European country on sexual offenders.

Marek Migalski, a European MP for the right-wing opposition Law and Justice party, denounced the artists' intervention in favor of Polanski, writing in his blog: “Would you use the same arguments if your buddy Romek got your 13-year-old daughter drunk and then played around with her?” Jerzy Sawka, a columnist for the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, wrote that the affair has made him reconsider the values of actors and directors he had once looked up to: “After the matter of Roman Polanski, nothing will be the same again. I'm listening and looking, and I don't believe the words that are coming from people I once respected.”

As the clamor against Polanski grew, Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, called on his ministers to express “greater restraint” over the director's troubles.

“This is a matter which, obviously involves an outstanding Polish director, and did happen many years ago,” Tusk told reporters. “But this is a matter which involves rape, having sex with a child, and we cannot mix politics into it.”

He added that while it was proper for Polish consular officials to be involved because Polanski is a Polish citizen, “I see no reason why we — that is my ministers or anyone else in Poland — should turn this into a matter of a national character.”