The British musician asked a popular Polish actor, Maciej Stuhr, to come on stage to translate his warning that democracy is “in grave danger of being lost unless we defend it.”
“The alternative to democracy is a prison, a prison of the mind. The alternative to democracy is violence, oppression, imprisonment and silence,” Sting said, then ran his hand over his neck in a throat-slicing gesture.
The 70-year-old delivered his message in a country bordering Ukraine, where Russia launched its invasion in February. 24 that have killed tens of thousands and displaced millions. Poland has become a refuge for more Ukrainians than any other country.
“The war in Ukraine is an absurdity based on a lie. If we swallow that lie, the lie will eat us,” Sting said. He appeared to be referring to justifications Russia has tried to give for its invasion, including a Russian claim that it seeks to “denazify” Ukraine, a democracy led by a Jewish president.
The crowd at the Warsaw National Stadium would also have understood a reference to their own country.
things drew especially loud applause when he said that democracy is somewhat messy and frustrating, “but it’s still worth fighting for.”
Poland’s populist government is often accused by the EU and human rights organizations of eroding democratic norms with its efforts to tighten control over the courts and media, reduce women’s reproductive rights and engage in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
After his speech, he performed “Fragile,” whose lyrics include the words that “nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could.”