By RTÉ Europe Correspondent Tony Connelly in Poland
Poland’s general election is being billed as a struggle between two competing versions of the country’s true identity. In one corner, the right wing, conservative Law and Justice Party. In the other, Civic Platform, pro-business, liberal and outward looking.
As head of Law and Justice, identical twins Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski (left) have been running the country in a way which has alarmed European partners and many liberals within Poland. President and prime minister respectively, they have cut a curious image on the international stage, and a divisive one at home.
They have stepped up verbal attacks on homosexuals and embarked on what many see as a witch hunt of anyone associated with – often innocently, or understandably – the former communist system which collapsed in 1989.
They have said they support the death penalty despite an EU ban.
In foreign policy Law and Justice has dismayed many European capitals. Some of the campaigning has been openly anti-German.
Their attitude during the new EU Reform Treaty has been combative to say the least: before a Brussels summit in June, the prime minister argued that Poland’s voting weight in EU decisions would be higher if the Nazis had not killed so many Poles during World War II.
That prompted the leader of the socialist group in the European Parliament, Martin Schultz, to call for Poland to be isolated in Europe.
Some leading Polish diplomats have left – or been forced out – of the foreign ministry in protest against the Kaczynskis' policies.
One of them, Pawel Swieboda, former advisor to the Polish president and director of EU policy at the foreign ministry, says: 'On the whole Polish people are pro-European, but at the moment they’re just confused.'
But what exactly is the appeal of Law and Justice?
Their showing in the opinion polls has held up despite – or perhaps because of – concerted attacks on them from foreign capitals.
But there is no doubt it is their anti-corruption drive which has won the support of whole swathes of Polish society, those on the margins who did not get rich during the transition from communism.
The twins set up an Anti Corruption Bureau which has staged high profile, often televised, arrests of individuals, one of whom included a former cabinet minister.
It seems not to matter that many of the charges are thrown out through lack of evidence. What matters to Law and Justice is that their efforts to fight a form of corruption, linked to a perceived network of former communists and secret police, wins support in the huge rural constituencies outside the capital Warsaw.
We travelled into the heartland to assess the mood in advance of Sunday's election.
In bright October sunshine we drove north east from Warsaw with translator Anna Rajca, a 23-year-old TV journalist for TVN, Poland's huge and highly successful commercial television and media group. It is a two and a half hour drive through a flat landscape broken by woods, near and far, shimmering with stunning autumnal colours. 'It's the zlota polska jesien,' says Anna, the Golden Polish Autumn.
Along the roadside people are occasionally selling mushrooms, fat, damp fungi from deep in the aromatic woods. At times the smell of fresh mushrooms fills the car as we glide through groves of beech and birch.
The roads are being improved all the way. There is talk of the Chinese coming in to help build new motorways in time for Euro 2012, taking place in Poland and Ukraine.
After two and a half hours we arrive at Wysokie Mazowiecki, a small rural town outside Bialystok. The origins of the town go back to 1240, but its heyday was the 16th century when its population was a mix of Catholic, Protestant and Greek Orthodox. By the late 17th century the Jews arrived and soon made up 60% of the population.
When the Nazis invaded in September 13, 1939 there were 5,000 Jews living in the town's ghetto. The second German occupation in November 1942 after Operation Barbarossa brought about the transportation of the entire Jewish population Auschwitz and Treblinka. None returned.