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15 06 2008

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15 06 2008
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15 06 2008
dastych

HULLO WORLD!

I AM COMING TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU, PEOPLE, AND TO BRING TO YOU NEWS, COMMENT, FEATURED ARTICLES AND OTHER ITEMS. READ ME AND ANSWER TO ME.
ALL MY BEST
DAVID DASTYCH

23 06 2008
dastych

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Long hands of the Communist security:

The Giant and the Dwarfs
By David Dastych Monday, June 23, 2008

”Words are plentiful; deeds are precious.”

– Lech Walesa (Polish Nobel Prize winner)

Warsaw, Poland: A book alleging that Solidarity trade union leader and former President of Poland Lech Walesa collaborated with communist security services (SB) was published in Warsaw on this Monday, June 23. It is a thick volume (700 pages), written and compiled from copies of documents of the Communist secret police (SB) by two young historians, Sławomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, who received an official stamp of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) where the authors work.

The book, entitled SB a Lech Walesa. Przyczynek do biografii (The SB and Lech Walesa: a contribution to a biography), kicked up a row weeks before its publication date, which incidentally preceded the 25th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Lech Walesa in 1983.

No wonder that Allegro, the Polish equivalent of e-Bay, sold 100 copies of the book in one day only, a single customer having bought 75. The first edition is relatively small, some 4,000 copies that might be sold out by bookstores almost instantly. I have got no copy so far, thus I am not discussing the book’s content in this article. I am going to tell you a real Walesa story from a different angle, that is personal and even a bit emotional. For me the question whether Lech Walesa was, sometime in the 1970s, a “TW Bolek” (secret agent Bolek) as the authors tried to prove, or whether his secret police dossier had been completely falsified is of no special importance. These are words, accusations, copies of documents penned by SB officers to compromise the once powerful Solidarity Union leader and to disgrace him before the Polish and the world’s public opinion. On the other scale, there are his d e e d s, which are 100 percent proof and which brought about freedom to the Polish nation and sovereignty to Poland.

But…let’s move on to our Lech Walesa story.

Gdansk on fire
In December 1970, riots exploded in Gdansk setting the city on fire. Shipyard workers protested against worsening living conditions and hikes of food and basic commodity prices decided by the then Communist regime led by the aging “hero of the 1956 thaw”, Wladyslaw Gomulka. The party leadership was scared and even asked for Soviet help but was refused. Then the riot police and the army were dispatched to Gdansk and to other Baltic Coast cities to quash the “anti-Socialist rebellion” as it was then (falsely) labeled. Tanks roamed in the streets and soldiers and policemen were shooting at people, see Videofact photos. At least, 42 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded.

Lech Walesa, then 27, a simple worker, just married to Danuta in 1969, was one of the leaders of the protests. At one moment he was standing in the window of the police (MO) station, a loudspeaker tube in hand, shouting to the crowd to stop attacking the building. “A traitor” somebody shouted back at him. Stones and bottles were thrown in his direction. Walesa was there to prevent more shooting at innocent people, but the crowd moved on by a brutal instinct of revenge.

After the riots had been crushed by force, the Communist secret police (SB) continued to threaten workers, to interrogate them, to beat them up and to..recruit secret informers from among their leaders. Lech Walesa later admitted to having signed some police documents. His opponents and also the authors of the recent book claim he was recruited in 1970 and worked for the SB until 1976. No original documents have been preserved, just fragmented copies, police lists of agents and also oral testimonies of some SB officers. Lech Walesa strongly denied he was ever an active secret agent. Some copies of police reports say he was “unmanageable” and that he had refused to cooperate.

Where is the truth? Original documents could have been destroyed after 1989, or sent to Moscow, or still remain in the hands of some “private” SB veterans, for an eventual blackmail. But why has nobody used them?

In the year 2000, when Lech Walesa was a candidate for Poland’s presidency (having served one term as President from 1990 to 1995), the so called Lustration Court examining the links of the candidates to the Communist secret services ruled that Lech Walesa had submitted a true declaration and that he was a victim of the services, not an agent. But a group of his former Solidarity Trade Union leadership colleagues and some members of the Polish right-wing parties still claim Walesa was a “Bolek” and the former Communist secret services, knowing that, kept him under control when he was the chairman of Solidarity and then when he was Poland’s first non-Communist President. The book written by the historians of the Institute of National Remembrance seems to be a politically-oriented attack on Lech Walesa, arranged by his opponents from the right, including the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, and his twin brother, Jaroslaw, the chairman of Law and Justice (PiS) political party. I have no direct proof to confirm this but many statements by some politicians, historians and former Solidarity leaders contributed to this conclusion.

Walesa will be removed tomorrow
In December 1981, only days before the imposing of the martial law in Poland by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, I got in touch with Lech Walesa, then the chairman of Solidarity Trade Union, through a journalist of my weekly paper Plomienie, Wlodek Krzyzanowski, who covered Solidarity meetings in Gdansk. We were to interview Walesa and I booked a flight to Gdansk for Saturday morning on the 12th of December. A day before, a journalist of a Gdansk weekly Czas, Andrzej Erecinski, suddenly came to Warsaw and we met at the Journalist Club. He told me, secretly, that “Walesa will be removed tomorrow” and a new Solidarity Leader will proclaim a general strike in Poland.. When I asked why Walesa should be removed, my colleague replied that he was too much influenced by “Communists and Jews.” I did not believe that. But to be sure I asked to arrange our interview of Lech Walesa on Sunday, December 13. Not wanting to depend on flights, I prepared my car to leave Warsaw on early Sunday morning. In fact, there was an attempt to remove Walesa but it failed. On Saturday night, the communications with Gdansk had been cut off and on Sunday morning I saw tanks and armored cars roaming in Warsaw streets. Mr. Krzyzanowski witnessed arrests of Solidarity leadership members on that memorable December night. Mr. Erecinski was in the Gdansk Shipyard with Lech Walesa and others, on a strike broken up by the army and police. Many journalists, including me, lost their jobs. Lech Walesa was arrested and then taken to a distant government holiday center in Arlamowo, South-Eastern Poland, where he was detained. He refused to collaborate with the military junta and to lead a “pacified” Solidarity Union. But it took eight more years to reestablish Solidarity and to engage the Communist leadership in talks that brought about regime change in 1989. I witnessed these glorious moments in a special prison ward in Barczewo, North-Eastern Poland, and I came out only in February 1990. In the Summer of 1990, I came to Gdansk with a crew of a Japanese Television to shoot a documentary about the political changes in Poland. I met Mr. Erecinski, who told me that the secret police (SB) harrassed him all the time, sometimes using eight cars to watch his steps. I wonder, what he thinks about Lech Walesa now? Mr. Erecinski is probably in London with his wife, Barbara Tuge-Erecinska, Poland’s Ambassador to Britain. In the 1990s, Lech Walesa, as the President of Poland, chose for her a diplomatic post in Stockholm, where she became the first Polish Ambassador from the ranks of Solidarity.

Walesa, the President
In 1990, I voted for him of course. Lech Walesa was the only candidate that could lead Poland through the initial, very difficult years of freedom. The country was now desolate, the economy in shambles, but the people were enthusiastic, and Walesa won the elections by a real landslide. Then problems appeared in their whole complexity. First of all, there was the worry of a Communist attempt to control the presidential office after President Wojciech Jaruzelski “abdicated” in favor of the Solidarity leader. His contestant from Solidarity was the Prime Minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki. But suddenly a new candidate appeared, a Polish businessman from Canada married to a Peruvian Indian woman, Stan Tyminski. The political force behind him was very strange, a former so called Patriotic Union Grunwald, representing ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic Communists. Tyminski boasted he had a “black suitcase” with compromising documents on Walesa. In the second round of the elections Walesa had to counter Tyminski. The “black suitcase” was never opened and Lech Walesa became the winner.

In 2008, eighteen years later, some people opposing Walesa still claim that Tyminski and his secret files were then used for blackmailing Walesa to accept special conditions imposed by General Jaruzelski before he left the office. These conditions, as they claim, were forced upon Lech Walesa by the Communist special services. But Stan Tyminski was not allowed to publish the “black” files on Walesa, because the future President had accepted the Communist dictate. I asked former President Wojciech Jaruzelski about that ploy. He replied there were no compromising documents on Lech Walesa, because they were not needed. Lech Walesa, as the President, took upon himself full responsibility to lead Poland from Communism to democracy. And he did that, more or less efficiently.

The presidential term of Walesa was difficult and not as successful as it seemed at the beginning. First of all, a former worker turned President of the country had absolutely no experience in governing and lawmaking. He had to rely on his advisers, who, sometimes, were primitive and yearning for power. President Walesa did one important thing: he successfully negotiated with Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin the evacuation of the Soviet Army from Poland (Yet, some of his opponents, like a right-wing Senator Romaszewski (PiS), discard Walesa’s abilities “Two drunks negotiated that in the Kremlin” he said). The habit of drinking expensive whiskey was one of President Walesa’s weak points. The Belwedere Palace, his first official residence, sometimes resembled a Las Vegas casino and his secret service reported on many strange drinking parties and of going to a morning Holy Mass with an equally drunk chaplain, Monsigniore Cybula. The President used to rely on special services (still Communist-inflitrated and controlled), on his legal advisors that distorted and misinterpreted the laws of the country and on Polish Army generals, whose influence was much exaggerated. Walesa seemed to imitate the late Marshall Josef Pilsudski, who ruled Poland’s as its dictator in the 1920s and 1930s. But there is no comparison of the two. Pilsudski was a political visionary and a patriotic great leader and Walesa, as President, was still a former worker with no education and lots of impulse and intuition. That was not enough to rule the country of almost 40 million people.

All criticts, save for Lech Walesa himself and some of his acolytes, agree that his presidency was a poor performance. Walesa’s self-admiration and bravado attitudes did not help him to win the second term in 1995, and he lost to a young post-Communist Aleksander Kwasniewski, who had more brains to “rule and join” while Walesa “ruled and divided.” President Walesa has split the Solidarity movement by his “high-level wars” and other political tricks. Never was he able to create a stabilizing post-Solidarity government but dismissed some Prime Ministers, replacing them with more obedient ones.

Still great though on the margin
In an article “The Polish Minefield” Karolina Gniewowska wrote in 2005: “At my primary school I was taught not to use Polish in the same way as our Nobel peace laureate, Lech Wałęsa. I remember my teacher exclaiming in horror: “Do you want to speak Polish or sound like our president?” Wałęsa’s errors and sayings were collected and published in mini-books as jokes. They were cruelly quoted and recycled as a party-piece. As a result, Wałęsa was never as popular and respected at home as he was abroad: Polish people just could not forget his lack of education.”

It’s cruel to remind a worker of his lack of education. Lech Walesa’s earlier life was poor and very difficult but his innumerable talents got him sky-high and earned for him the title of a “Symbol of Poland” in the world. His popularity, bolstered by years of effective Western media propaganda, is so overwhelming that, as one noted, “An Eskimo doesn’t know where Poland is but he knows one Polish name, Lech Walesa.”

There is something like a ”Walesa myth” coupled with a “Solidarity ethos” of the early days of this remarkable and unique trade unionist. I wonder why some Polish people, politicians in particular, historians and some journalists are trying so hard to destroy Walesa’s credibility at home and his international standing. He has said a lot of crap in his political life but remained a fascinating personality, an independent mind and a great lonely outsider. All Walesa’s attempts to return to “big” politics, to create a powerful movement or a new political party, to become President of Poland again (he got over one percent of the votes each time he tried) had failed. But in spite of these setbacks, Walesa remains a strong and healthy political figure. The question whether he was, at times, an enslaved informer of the Communist services is really not important. Stupid and jealous people, who attack Lech Walesa by their articles, films and books allegedly “in the name of truth” should beware that they destroy a historic personality, who will remain a “symbol of Poland” for hundreds of years to come. Lech Walesa is a living part of the glorious, though complicated and not always successful recent history of Poland and of the world. Let him stay where he is, on the outskirts of the bizarre Polish partisan politics, in his Gdansk home, where last Saturday (June 21) six hundred people came to celebrate with him a typical Polish “name-day” (Lech’s day). Let him write his new book and defend himself on television, travel abroad and speak about Poland’s past, present and future in his typical witty ways. And remember: “Words are plentiful; deeds are precious.”


David Dastych, 66 is a veteran journalist, writing for Polish and foreign media. He was also a businessman and consultant to foreign business, one time an associate director of Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Poland. Now he owns and operates an international media agency in Warsaw. David runs David’s Media Agency.

David can be reached at: davids@aster.pl
Other articles by David Dastych

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