Warsaw, Poland – On a cold, hazy December morning, the Ryz sisters stand on a sidewalk of a busy street in Warsaw.
“Shall we go to church?” 24-year-old Olympia asks her sister, Melania, grinning and holding up a dozen pink, yellow and grey stickers with the words, “Abortion is OK”, and the hotline numbers and social media profiles of Polish pro-choice organisations.
At the first church they encounter in the residential neighbourhood of Bródno, Olympia, who wears a black woollen cap over her long, blue hair, calmly peels the back off a sticker and sticks it on the gate.
She says they don’t want to anger anyone. “We are just helping Catholic women because they have abortions, too,” she says. “Our goal is to help all the women.”
The sisters are volunteers with the Aborcyjny (Abortion) Dream Team (ADT), a solidarity network supporting Polish women seeking an abortion.
The siblings, both medical students, spend a fair amount of their spare time answering the queries that come to ADT and spreading the numbers of civil society organisations across the Polish capital so that women in the city of about two million know who to contact if they have an unwanted pregnancy.
During the course of an hour, the sisters stroll around, placing stickers on bus stops, walls, streetlamps and a cigarette vending machine.
“A lot of football fans hang out here in Bródno,” says Melania, who is dressed in black like her sister and wears red lipstick and a beanie over her faded, red-dyed hair.
She points to an Ultras sticker on a traffic light pole. In Poland, hardcore football fan groups, or Ultras, often belong to far-right political movements with strong anti-abortion positions, the 25-year-old explains.
Bródno is home to a branch of Ultras supporting the Legia Warszawa football club and Melania, who lives nearby, frequently targets this “very conservative” neighbourhood. Her stickers get torn down, so she puts more up. She covers the Ultras sticker with one of her own. “It’s a fight,” she says.