Chopin, bison or vodka? Poles debate euro symbols

Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:54am EDT
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By Gabriela Baczynska and Karolina Slowikowska

WARSAW (Reuters) - Should it be the late Pope John Paul II or Solidarity trade union leader Lech Walesa? Or how about a bison or a bottle of vodka, or maybe all of the above?

The Polish government's announcement last month that it aims to adopt the euro in 2012 has triggered a debate among Poles over who or what should grace its euro coins once they start using the common currency in place of the zloty.

"Maybe Pope John Paul II would be good for a Polish euro coin. I would also like historic actors, politicians. Definitely not art though, no Chopin please," said Tomek, a 25-year-old bartender at an upmarket cafe in the heart of Warsaw.

"This (euro adoption) would really do us good, no matter what some may say. This would tie us closer to civilized western Europe," Tomek said, adding after a short pause: "It has to be John Paul II (on the coins)."

A country joining the euro can opt to have the same image on all eight of the coins in circulation -- or it can choose up to eight different symbols if it prefers.

Among those cited in Polish media or on the street are the European bison -- which still roam Poland's primeval forest -- and the white eagle, which is on the country's coat of arms.

Other popular candidates are astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who discovered that the earth goes round the sun, and romantic composer Fryderyk Chopin. The more cynical have proposed a bottle of vodka, Poles' traditional tipple.

"I think it's good news we are adopting the euro and, traditionally the white eagle should be on it," said Halina, a 65-year-old pensioner walking in Warsaw.   Continued...