Who are Today’s Polish Traitors? Of Politics of Paranoia and Resentment and Missed Lessons from the Past

„Those who go around shouting „Poland, Poland!“, don’t always have the deepest and wisest reflections of Poland in their hearts and minds. – Slowacki knew this. (…). The symbols of tradition and history are alive to our nation, and it has never allowed them to be torn from its memory. But the question is whether these symbols incline us to communal action and true patriotic sentiments, or whether they engender sterile inert emotions and cheap feelings, serving as a smokescreen for self-satisfaction, arrogance and apathy, indeed chauvinism and even hatred.“

Andrzej Wajda

Who did more to bring down Communism than Lech Walesa? Mikhail Gorbachev perhaps, or Vaclav Havel. Certainly John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. After that the list peters out pretty quickly. Yet now we read insinuations that Lech Walesa worked for the secret police of Communist Poland. Earlier this year officials of the Polish Institute of National Memory (IPN) seized documents from a vacation house of the deceased former secret police chief, Czesław Kiszczak. One file supposedly contains Walesa’s signature, showing assent to act as a „secret collaborator,“ as well as alleged receipts for payments. This is not the first time that Walesa has faced questions. In the 1990s rumors surfaced that he was an informer code-named Bolek, yet no document has emerged showing that such an agent spied on anyone. The IPN is not even sure if Walesa’s alleged signature is genuine. What is unquestionable is a stubborn campaign to show that a man who destroyed a political system was also in its pay. Walesa is not the only dissident icon to be targeted. Writers Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron, former foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, and first post-Communist Prime Minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki have likewise attracted accusations of complicity. In Germany or Czechoslovakia these would imply moral failing, in Poland they signal treason ...

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