Slavic culture is sometimes portrayed using images of piety, simplicity and a rural idyll. Not least by Slavs themselves. But a racy music video from Poland that has been watched almost 17 million times on YouTube challenges those stereotypes.

The song My Slowianie – ‘Us Slavs’ – is a collaboration between the Polish rap artist Donatan and the singer Cleo.


When TVP announced that Donatan and Cleo would sing “My Slowianie” at Eurovision, they were quick to point out that the song is not a joke. Their press release included comment from a noted Polish cultural critic who described it as “a really smart parody”. We’ve now read the lyrics to “Slavic Girls”, the English-language version of the song, and we have to agree. Donatan and Cleo are master satirists, and their song is a clever rebuke to xenophobes who want to keep Poland in a box.

The opening scene of the video shows Donatan—lazy and clearly oversexed—struggling to get out of bed. His antiquated mobile phone and rural farmhouse smack of a man—indeed, a nation—behind the times. The suggestion that Warsaw is stuck in the dark ages continues with the video’s depiction of women, who churn butter while men rate their performance. Milk running down their cheeks and over their thrusting cleavage isn’t just there to titilate. It plays on the supposed role of women in traditional society: to be angels in the kitchen and wantons in the bedroom.

In Britain, where I’m writing this post from, Poles (and Romanians and Bulgarians and any other immigrant from Eastern Europe) are too often portrayed as scroungers who come to live on benefits. It’s a tired storyline born of fear and xenophobia, and frustration over Britain’s own economic shortcomings. In fact, in recent years Poles have actually been fleeing Britain and returning home in search of better opportunities. Poland 2014 is not the Poland of ten years ago. Much of the world already knows this: Businessweek recently described Poland as “Europe’s most dynamic economy” and Poland is among the nation’s leading the economic recovery in Eastern Europe.

That puts a different slant on Donatan and Cleo’s clever video. It’s slick, colourful and well-choreographed. And the song, produced to perfection, gets stuck in your head, regardless of whether you’re into hip-hop or not.

Given all that, the strongest message is an implicit one. You can’t call a nation backwards when it produces something as strong as this.