The government stance is also backed by a powerful conservative media that has loaded Poland’s newstands with brazenly anti-LGBTQ magazine covers. One publication, Sieci, warned of a “Massive attack on Poland coming”, while another, Do Rzeczy, showed a mocked up prime ministerial podium flanked with rainbow flags.
A third, the Gazeta Polska, went even further, printing a cover warning that the LGBTQ movement wanted to “destroy their civilisation” and giving readers a “LGBT-free zone” sticker showing a black cross over a rainbow flag.
The stickers were banned by the courts, but for Mr Gawron and Nikita they speak to a deepening climate of hostility that Polish Pride marchers – there were 16 Pride marches in the country’s 20 regions this year – need to overcome.
Still, the two activists say they will not give up – with the reaction against the Bialystok violence itself providing a platform to continue the battle against deeply ingrained prejudices and conservative Catholic traditions.
“When I saw the stickers and what happened in Bialystok I really broke down, I just felt we were going backwards,” says Nikita. “But after some time I calmed down, and I see it as a moment when people can start to speak out about what happened and then maybe we can move forward.”