Episode 70 – Property Rights Versus Tenants in Poland

Beata Siemieniako on the restitution of housing and tenants’ struggles. Unregulated restitution of property to prewar owners (or rather their legal successors) remains a major source of conflict over housing in Poland, most notably in Warsaw. This episode features Beata Siemieniako, a Warsaw lawyer and urban activist who has been supporting tenants in their struggle against ruthless developers for years. In her book „Re-privatising Poland. The History of a Great Scam“ (Reprywatyzując Polskę. Historia wielkiego przekrętu, Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej 2017), she tells the story of conflicting claims to urban property and reflects on the pitfalls of restituting past property orders while neglecting present-day social rights. Florian Peters has talked to her about law, grassroots activism, and the impossibility to achieve justice by trying to turn back time.

Episode transcript


Dr. Florian Peters

Dr. Florian Peters is a historian specialising in the contemporary history of Poland and East Central Europe. His latest book „From Solidarność to Shock Therapy. How Capitalism came to Poland“ (Von Solidarność zur Schocktherapie. Wie der Kapitalismus nach Polen kam, Berlin: Ch. Links 2023) investigates the origins of the neoliberal breakthrough of 1989. At SFB 294/Friedrich Schiller University Jena, he is researching conflicts over privatisation and local self-governance in post-socialist Poland.


Beata Siemieniako

Beata Siemieniako is a lawyer and housing rights activists from Warsaw,Poland. Representing tenants and urban activists in the court for years, she has been repeatedly rewarded for her legal and public engagement. She is regularly publishing about issues of housing and the rule of law in notable Polish outlets, such as “Oko.press,” “Krytyka Polityczna,” or “Kultura Liberalna.”