“I give great thanks to the government that now we have a chance to save these memories,” she said.
After more than two years in power, the Law and Justice party and its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have reshaped the judicial system in ways that critics say undermines the rule of law. The government has seized control of the state news media, ousting opponents; moved to curb public gatherings; and passed a controversial law making it illegal to claim that the Polish nation was responsible for the Holocaust.
Critics worry that the party is using the tools of democracy to undermine that very democracy. But for all the international hand-wringing, the party itself is more popular than ever where it counts — with the voters.
While the main opposition remains badly divided, with polls showing them mired in the teens, Law and Justice has been consistently scoring between 40 and 45 percent.
Much of that support has been built on populist and patriotic themes, placing as much importance on shaping memories of the past as building for the future. Poland’s tragic history, along with the need to overcome centuries of occupation and stand up to outsiders, remains an important part of Mr. Kaczynski’s appeal.
That populist message and promises to restore traditional values have resonated deeply in the vast countryside, where many rural voters long for a sense of stability and security in a fast-changing Europe.
Mr. Kaczynski has struck upon a potent mix of populist social programs, patriotic swagger and selective historical remembrance to build support. He has spoken about a 20-year project to reshape Poland, and in places like Podgorze, voters seem inclined to give him time.
“There are so many areas that in our reality need not just modernization but outright plowing,” he recently told the right-wing weekly, Gazeta Polska. “In order to turn Poland into a modern state, free from the burden of the past, friendly to its citizens, one needs not two, but at least three terms.”
He ran promising that Poland would no longer find itself on its knees, living in fear of Russia to the east and subservient to Germany in the west.
Ms. Klosinska said she was pained that foreigners do not understand her country and its history. But this only stiffened her resolve. “Poland will not take a step back,” she said.
People here work the fields. They live on farms, erect shrines to the Virgin Mary and dutifully go to church every Sunday. It is not always an easy life.
“The previous party talked a lot about helping these people but did nothing,” said Marek Adam Komorowski, 58, a local councilman.
The first thing Law and Justice did was deliver a real benefit: a stipend of 500 zlotys, or around $148, a month for every child after the first child for every family in the country. The party also reversed a deeply unpopular decision to raise the retirement age to 67, reducing it to 60 for women and 65 for men. It has provided new housing subsidies and worked to reopen shut state factories.
While the opposition called these spendthrift policies that could not be afforded, the economy is thriving, and the government has lowered both the budget deficit and unemployment (with no small amount of help from European Union subsidies).
Law and Justice “realized the electorate outside the cities could be mobilized, that there was a political vacuum,” said Slawomir Debski, the director of the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw. “The money was important as a psychological signal to the society.”
But despite the warnings of cataclysm from the opposition, the deficit has not soared. Poland’s economy continues to boom. Unemployment, even in the countryside, is at historic lows, hovering around 6 percent.
Since 1991, when it completed its transition from communism, Poland’s economy has been growing on average 4 percent annually — without a single year of negative growth. The average income has risen from $2,300 to more than $13,000.
Poland has also benefited from its membership in the European Union, with subsidies for things like road construction and farming touching every corner of the country.
But if leaders in Western Europe think Poland should simply be grateful, say thank you and follow their lead, they misread the mood here, Mr. Komorowski said.
“I don’t want people to think people here are just backward peasants who go and vote where they are told to,” he said. “People here have suffered a lot, and this is shaping their views.”
More than anything, he said, the ruling party allowed people to feel proud again.
“The government is helping us restore our pride and dignity,” he said. “You cannot take freedom for granted. Dignity and freedom are something to fight for. You need to protect it, just as you need to protect national identity.”
Asked to define Poland’s national identity, he thought for a moment. “Christian values,” he said. “Devotion to fatherland. And tradition.”
Ms. Klosinska, the librarian, values the government’s emphasis on national pride in education. “I was always aware that there was a lack of patriotic education, even when I was a little girl,” she said.
Around 17 years ago, she petitioned the government to organize a contest for patriotic poems. It told her no. Now, this government has encouraged her project.
She has received grant money to hold a conference on those who were sent to Siberia and another grant for an essay contest that asks “people to write about what it means to live in a sovereign country.” There is also new money for a “patriotic festival.”
This year marks 100 years since President Woodrow Wilson called for the establishment of a free and independent Polish state, and the ruling party has been preparing for this anniversary for more than two years, she said.
She took visitors outside the library to view the new memorial to the deported.
“In memory of the Sybiracy, deported to an inhuman land,” the memorial reads. “Let good God care for the martyrs of Siberia, those tortured and murdered in the Golgotha of the east and those who had been deported and found a home under a foreign sky.”
Posing proudly by the monument, Ms. Klosinska said: “Finally we have a government that allows us to celebrate our history.”