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Intense Photos Show Polish Teens Getting Military Training At A Nationalist Boot Camp

This high school program is like the JROTC on steroids.

Posted on January 22, 2018, at 4:22 p.m. ET

Malgorzata Baranowska (right) is a history and education for security professor at a public high school in Brzeg, Poland. She started military classes there in 2011 to teach the importance of discipline, obedience, and a respect for authority.
Hanna Jarzabek

Malgorzata Baranowska (right) is a history and education for security professor at a public high school in Brzeg, Poland. She started military classes there in 2011 to teach the importance of discipline, obedience, and a respect for authority.

Poland's Military profile classes, a collaboration among schools, the Polish army, state agencies, and private paramilitary organizations, have been around since 1999. They rose in popularity in 2014, especially among young people looking for an advantage in finding future employment with the army or police force.

It's no coincidence that the program has gained steam since the ultra-conservative Law and Justice Party took office in October 2015. These military classes support the larger nationalist revival that's sweeping through Poland and many other countries right now. Under its unofficial motto, "God, Honor, and Homeland," the program promotes patriotism and frames "defending the homeland" as a moral obligation of its participants.

There's also a strong desire to strip away liberal, western influences and realign the country with Christian values, and the classes are a way for those messages to directly reach the younger generation. As one 18-year-old student in his second year of the program said, "The most urgent thing in Poland is to rebuild the national identity. We have moved far away from religion and patriotism. We have developed a more western lifestyle, based on individualistic logic and consumerism. It is necessary to return to ... Christian roots and develop more community-oriented behavior. The West cannot impose its values on us. We are the owners of this country and we are the ones who should dictate the rules here."

Although the schools are designed for students between the ages of 16 and 19, some allow children as young as 13 to enroll. Photographer Hanna Jarzabek went back to the school she attended herself 25 years ago to photograph the program and speak with students. Jarzabek is not uncomfortable in the presence of weapons, having spent part of her career working in the Gaza Strip. And yet, it was a "very strange feeling to see so many guns around" and to "see teenagers learning to use [sophisticated guns] in a country with no war going on," she said.

Military profile instructor Sebastian Lipínski heads up Unit 3060, a paramilitary organization created in 2015 in collaboration with Baranowska that's based at the high school. Unit 3060 classes are taught by both current and former army soldiers.
Hanna Jarzabek

Military profile instructor Sebastian Lipínski heads up Unit 3060, a paramilitary organization created in 2015 in collaboration with Baranowska that's based at the high school. Unit 3060 classes are taught by both current and former army soldiers.

Military profile students, age 17, in a history class. Students enrolled in the program also attend regular classes, but are still required to wear uniforms twice a week.
Hanna Jarzabek

Military profile students, age 17, in a history class. Students enrolled in the program also attend regular classes, but are still required to wear uniforms twice a week.

The private weapon collection of a member of Unit 3060 in a classroom. Gun education and training are a large part of the training. "I think everyone should know how to use weapons," Lipínski said. "Owning one is an individual matter. There must be some kind of rules, of course, but it should be facilitated rather than hindered."
Hanna Jarzabek

The private weapon collection of a member of Unit 3060 in a classroom. Gun education and training are a large part of the training. "I think everyone should know how to use weapons," Lipínski said. "Owning one is an individual matter. There must be some kind of rules, of course, but it should be facilitated rather than hindered."

Students enrolled in the program hope the training will help them secure a job with the military or law enforcement in the future. "Here, no matter how much you study, if you don’t have contacts you will not find a job," said Paulina, a 17-year-old student. "Many people go abroad, like my cousin, and do not plan to return."
Hanna Jarzabek

Students enrolled in the program hope the training will help them secure a job with the military or law enforcement in the future. "Here, no matter how much you study, if you don’t have contacts you will not find a job," said Paulina, a 17-year-old student. "Many people go abroad, like my cousin, and do not plan to return."

Students learn combat tactics in urban areas under the supervision of Unit 3060. The unit decides the type of activities the students will take part in. Options range from basic first aid, studying topography, physical education, and military training to more advanced survival camps, combat tactics, and aerial rope techniques.
Hanna Jarzabek

Students learn combat tactics in urban areas under the supervision of Unit 3060. The unit decides the type of activities the students will take part in. Options range from basic first aid, studying topography, physical education, and military training to more advanced survival camps, combat tactics, and aerial rope techniques.

Students carry out military training exercises.
Hanna Jarzabek

Students carry out military training exercises.

Instructor Lipínski prepares a student for an aerial rope exercise.
Hanna Jarzabek

Instructor Lipínski prepares a student for an aerial rope exercise.


A student lowers herself to the ground in an aerial rope training exercise.
Hanna Jarzabek

A student lowers herself to the ground in an aerial rope training exercise.

Students learn Krav Maga, a martial arts technique first developed for Israeli defense and security forces, under the supervision of Unit 3060 instructor Kamil Zielinski.
Hanna Jarzabek

Students learn Krav Maga, a martial arts technique first developed for Israeli defense and security forces, under the supervision of Unit 3060 instructor Kamil Zielinski.


"The discipline and military training are very important," said Unit 3060 instructor Lipínski (right). "The values we want to convey are summarized in three words: God, honor and fatherland."
Hanna Jarzabek

"The discipline and military training are very important," said Unit 3060 instructor Lipínski (right). "The values we want to convey are summarized in three words: God, honor and fatherland."

Students line up for their military exercises.
Hanna Jarzabek

Students line up for their military exercises.

Students carry out military training exercises.
Hanna Jarzabek

Students carry out military training exercises.

Students break for a snack while in the field.
Hanna Jarzabek

Students break for a snack while in the field.

"I am interested in the army because it is something new, different. But above all, I think there is a lot of injustice in the world and being in the army or police I could maybe change it," said 17-year-old Basia (left).
Hanna Jarzabek

"I am interested in the army because it is something new, different. But above all, I think there is a lot of injustice in the world and being in the army or police I could maybe change it," said 17-year-old Basia (left).

Typically, the students use replicas of weapons from private collections during classes. These weapons can be worth over 700 euros a piece in a town with an average monthly gross salary of 660 euros.
Hanna Jarzabek

Typically, the students use replicas of weapons from private collections during classes. These weapons can be worth over 700 euros a piece in a town with an average monthly gross salary of 660 euros.

Students during a gun training exercise. The guns students use for their exercises are not loaded except for when they are learning how to shoot. All activities involving live ammunition take place under the supervision of the Polish army.
Hanna Jarzabek

Students during a gun training exercise. The guns students use for their exercises are not loaded except for when they are learning how to shoot. All activities involving live ammunition take place under the supervision of the Polish army.

A 16-year-old student during a gun training exercise. "The general objective of the activities is to develop survival and military skills among students. We want them to be ready, as we think everybody should be able to defend himself. All this knowledge is very useful, maybe not directly in everyday life, but you never know what is going to happen," said Unit 3060 instructor Zielinski. "And in the end, it is better they spend their time in open air doing those things than indoor with a PlayStation."
Hanna Jarzabek

A 16-year-old student during a gun training exercise. "The general objective of the activities is to develop survival and military skills among students. We want them to be ready, as we think everybody should be able to defend himself. All this knowledge is very useful, maybe not directly in everyday life, but you never know what is going to happen," said Unit 3060 instructor Zielinski. "And in the end, it is better they spend their time in open air doing those things than indoor with a PlayStation."

"I think that if I do not feel threatened, I do not have to have a gun at home. But every person should know how to use it. Of course, if you know how to use a gun, it means also potentially you can kill somebody. Maybe that’s why some people do not even want to learn how to use a weapon. But I think it is a mistake. It is a very important skill to learn," said Baranowska.
Hanna Jarzabek

"I think that if I do not feel threatened, I do not have to have a gun at home. But every person should know how to use it. Of course, if you know how to use a gun, it means also potentially you can kill somebody. Maybe that’s why some people do not even want to learn how to use a weapon. But I think it is a mistake. It is a very important skill to learn," said Baranowska.

A 16-year-old student during a gun training exercise under the supervision of the Polish army. The guns used in these exercises are actual army-owned weapons.
Hanna Jarzabek

A 16-year-old student during a gun training exercise under the supervision of the Polish army. The guns used in these exercises are actual army-owned weapons.

Another 16-year-old student during the same gun training exercise.
Hanna Jarzabek

Another 16-year-old student during the same gun training exercise.

Baranowska shows photos of classes that have completed the training.
Hanna Jarzabek

Baranowska shows photos of classes that have completed the training.

Graduates of the Military profile program. Those who complete it are given school-issued diplomas signed by the Polish army, although they are not official army documents and a four-month training will still be required should any of the graduates wish to enlist.
Hanna Jarzabek

Graduates of the Military profile program. Those who complete it are given school-issued diplomas signed by the Polish army, although they are not official army documents and a four-month training will still be required should any of the graduates wish to enlist.


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  • Picture of HannaJarzabek

    Documentary Photographer based in Spain. Studied in Grisart (Barcelona), University of Geneva, MPW69 (USA).

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