Is Wałęsa Poland’s Hero?

On the backdrop of what has been happening recently in relation to Lech Wałęsa, I was reminded of a post I wrote almost eight years ago. I’m re-posting it for your enjoyment…

Get WałęsaThe political climate in Poland is abubbling, afrothing and afoaming due to the imminent publication of SB a Lech Wałęsa (the Secret Police and Lech Wałęsa) by Sławomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk. The authors of the book, two historians who work for the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), claim that the former President of Poland and legendary leader of Solidarity Lech Wałęsa was in fact a communist agent (Polish TW = tajny współpracownik = secret agent) with the pseudonym “Bolek”. A double agent, no less. This has sent shock waves across the Polish political landscape causing an incredible polarisation of an already divided political scene.

Bolek or Not
WałęsaThere are in effect two camps. Those who believe Wałęsa is the now mythical “Bolek” and those who believe there is no way on God’s Earth that the leader of Solidarity, the man who defeated communism and a devout Catholic could have played for both sides. The “Bolek” camp is headed by the terrible twins, wannabe Machiavellis, Lech and Jarosław Kaczyński who very early on in their political careers made it clear that they thought Wałęsa was “Bolek”. Interestingly, they only made their opinions known when Wałęsa threw his former aide Lech Kaczyński out of his office and decided he was unfit to work in politics and when Wałęsa decided to put an end to the ill-fated government of Kaczyński buddy Jan Olszewski (as well as Antoni Macierewicz).

Campaign of Dishonour
WałęsaThe truly annoying thing about this campaign to discredit the Nobel Peace Prize winner is that Kaczyński and Kaczyński have quite literally pulled out all the stops to besmirch Wałęsa. The IPN is loaded with Law and Justice (PiS) cronies who have not yet been cleared out by the government of Civic Platform (PO). Several days ago, Polish National Television (TVP) broadcast a so-called documentary which provided ‘hard evidence’ that Wałęsa was “Bolek”. Actually, this ‘papumentary’ was more an advert for the book. TVP is of course headed and managed by a whole slew of PiS sympathisers casting a dark shadow over the journalistic credibility of the programme. What is more, the now infamous book is an alleged history based on IPN documents. It is odd that a history book posits a thesis at the beginning rather than look at the facts and then draw a conclusion.

What if…?
Man of the YearThe question on most people’s lips is what will happen (or become of Wałęsa) if it turns out that he did collaborate with the SB. Those people who survived communism know full well that a large majority of people did collaborate. So what? They did so to survive. I suggest the younger generation go out and watch the poignant Das Leben der Anderen which shows how communism was never truly black and white. We are rarely confronted with true, pure evil in life and people usually come in shades of grey. If Wałęsa did collaborate (which I severely doubt) then I’m sure he did it to protect the fragile, embryonic democracy that he was trying to nurture. If he did collaborate why doesn’t he admit it? Life is never black and white and to point the finger and to name names would do no good now. The facts are that Wałęsa did more for freedom than most men do in their whole lives and that can never be taken away from him.

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