Books on Poland
Update No: 116 - (25/01/07)
Poland is still reeling from revelations that Stanislaw Wielgus, whom the
Vatican had tapped to be Warsaw's next archbishop, had extensive collaboration
with the Polish secret police during communism. Wielgus first denied the charge,
but, as evidence mounted against him, he stepped down January 7th during a Mass
that was meant to mark his installation.
Since then, more Polish priests have resigned over similar charges. The Polish
Catholic Church now says a tenth of its clergy probably worked as communist
informers, and one priest, Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski, is threatening to publish
a book naming names. This is sheer dynamite.
The cases of Wielgus and Holek have some similarities. Communist regimes
officially banned organized religion, yet unofficially tolerated it, using
priests and clergy to inform on one another and lay people. Both Wielgus and
Holek spied on the activities of local clergy who had been exiled in Rome.
Using a code name, Holek went to the Vatican in 1982. According to media
reports, he received a yearly salary of 25,000 K to report on such priests as
Jaroslav Karvada and Karel Skalický. Reports do not detail how long Holek's
collaboration continued, but they do say that the regime was happy enough with
his work to give him regular bonuses.
Since then, Holek has called his secret police collaboration "the great
mistake of my life."
With the Holek and Wielgus cases, the issue of lustration - the act of vetting
public officials to determine whether they collaborated with communist regimes -
is once again a subject of discussion, if not outright debate.
The Czech Republic has had a lustration law on the books since 1991 and has set
the pace for most former Eastern bloc countries in dealing with their pasts.
Slovakia has a lustration law, but experts say it is rarely enforced. Hungary
doesn't even have one, and only last summer did the Polish government announce a
revamped vetting law and a renewed determination to cleanse the country's halls
"Lustration has always been a source of political struggles in these
countries," says Vojtch Cepl, a former Czech Constitutional Court judge and
one of the authors of the lustration law. "The struggle is between two
schools of thought: One says let's forget and forgive, and the other says that
without properly dealing with the past, we will not have a good system of rules
for human conduct."
Until recently, Cepl says, Poland's government belonged to the first school. It
was only after the elections of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin
brother, President Lech Kaczynski, that the government there pledged to go after
past collaborators serving in public offices.
Judging the past
Throughout the 1990s, more than 300,000 Czechs were screened under the
lustration law, with about 5 percent banned from public offices over their
Cepl says the Czech lustration law is remarkable for its strictness. The offices
from which former regime hands are banned include the government, high-level
civil service, security service, state-owned businesses, the central bank, the
national railway, high academic positions and the judiciary.
The last time lustration surfaced significantly in the Czech Republic was in
2005, when two high-level judges were accused of prosecuting dissidents during
the communist era.
While the names of those two judges - Jitka Horová and Vlasta Formánková -
were eventually cleared, the Justice Ministry launched an investigation into the
pasts of some 60 judges to verify that all had the certificate required under
the lustration law that states they did not cooperate with the secret police.
All this is about collaboration with one superpower, the USSR that has
disappeared from the face of the Earth. But there is still one left, the US. On
what terms does one collaborate with them?
The Poles have the third largest contingent of troops in Iraq after the US and
the UK. They are beginning to wish they hadn't. There are extensive calls for
them to be withdrawn.
But the Poles are incredibly staunch supporters of the West for all that. There
were 300 magnificent Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain in 1940, who might
have tipped the scales. There were two divisions of Poles at the Battle of Monte
Cassino in 1944, an agonizingly attritional, but ultimately successful assault
on the last stronghold of the Nazis in Italy and a turning-point in the Second
The war was after all occasioned by the fourth division of Poland in the
Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 - one of the grimmest moments of human history.
The US wants missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic The United States
has been negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic, both former communist
states now in NATO, as it explores setting up missile defence sites in Eastern
Europe. The US has asked Poland and the Czech Republic to host radar bases that
would be part of a global missile defence system, the prime minister announced
on January 20th, drawing a warning from Russia of retaliatory actions.
US officials contend the system could defend Europe against intercontinental
missiles fired by states such as Iran and North Korea. But the Kremlin warned
that the military balance in Europe could be at stake and said the development
risked a new arms race.
Independent defence experts have said the ground-based missile defence system is
still years from being able to protect against long-range missile attacks.
The US has missile interceptor bases in Alaska and California. It activated a
powerful X-band radar site in northern Japan as part of the system last
September, but so far has no anti-missile weapons based outside US territory.
The US request that the Czech Republic host only an X-band radar facility could
indicate Washington is considering putting launchers for anti-missile missiles
in Poland. Czech authorities refused to comment on Poland's possible role. Czech
Prime Minister Topolanek said only that he would discuss the issue with his
Polish counterpart, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
The following is an informed analysis of the lustration problem:-
Poland's witch hunt
Wiktor Osiatynski, IHT, January 22nd 2007
Poland trembled this month when the newly appointed Catholic archbishop of
Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus, announced his resignation after revelations that he
had collaborated with the Communist secret police. The Wielgus scandal seemed to
portend a new era in the church's lustration, or the purging of former secret
police collaborators. So far, that has been a slow process, because Pope John
Paul II guided the Polish church with principles of reconciliation and mercy
rather than revenge. Only after his death did the files on the clergy begin to
Today in Poland, lustration has become a tool not only of revenge, but of
politics. What may look like an effort to reconcile with the Communist past is
something else entirely. It is an assault on reconciliation and a generational
bid for power.
It has been difficult to deal with the Communist past in Poland in part because
the transition was so smooth. Had Communism collapsed abruptly, swift
retribution would have been more likely. But the new government promised to
establish rule of law, and punishing people retroactively would have violated
that basic principle. So a procedure was designed that called for all appointees
or candidates for public office (as well as lawyers, but not the clergy) to
submit affidavits stating whether or not they had been secret agents. Those who
lied were to be disqualified from public service. A special lustration court was
But defining what made someone an agent proved a crucial problem. Under
Communism, the secret service was omnipresent. It harassed large numbers of
people, forcing many to sign loyalty declarations or to collaborate. Most people
told them lies, signed the declarations and went home. In 2000, the Supreme
Court declared that those who had merely appeared to cooperate, but who avoided
providing the security services with any vital information, could not be
considered collaborators, even if they signed agreements and met with agents.
Under such criteria, Wielgus was not a secret agent, even though he did sign two
agreements in the 1970s to act as an informant and agent for Polish
intelligence. The documents do not prove that he ever produced any reports.
Certainly, there were people in cells of the Solidarity underground who got paid
to spy on their best friends, and these people did real damage. Unfortunately,
the secret police files do not distinguish at first sight between them and
others who didn't do much harm. To make a valid accusation, it was necessary to
analyse the files and other evidence in detail. But this process was too slow
for the advocates of de-Communisation, many of whom have always wanted to use
the secret police files as a tool in fighting their opponents.
When historians and some journalists received access to the files, leaks soon
began to attract media attention. In January 2005, the entire list of more than
120,000 names was leaked from the Institute of National Memory, where the files
are held. The list did not discriminate between agents and those who were merely
under surveillance. But its release pushed lustration forward. After the 2005
elections, lustration became a mechanism for enormous generational change in
Polish politics and society.
In the early 1990s, the current president Lech Kaczynski; his twin brother
Jaroslaw, who is now the prime minister; and their supporters were alienated
from their higher-stature colleagues in Solidarity. President Lech Walesa even
purged the Kaczynski brothers from his Chancery. So when the twins decided to
create the Law and Justice party, they turned to young people on the far right.
Now, driven by resentment against an entire generation of older politicians, the
Kaczynskis are happy to see them purged from offices and replaced by their own
A new lustration law adopted last August seems to fit these purposes well,
making it possible to publish the contents of the file of anyone who is active
in the public sphere. In other words, now virtually every sitting or aspiring
official who lived under Communism is at risk of being slandered.
In Poland, the past has become prey for today's hunters, proving again that
whenever history falls into the hands of politicians, distorted truth becomes an
instrument for their own goals.
PKN Orlen gets status of exclusive supplier of MN
The heads of Poland's PKN Orlen and Lithuania's Mazeikiu Nafta (MN) on January
5th signed an agreement giving Orlen exclusive rights to supply MN with crude
oil. "Under the agreement signed for an unlimited time and effective as of
the date of signing crude oil will be delivered along the Druzhba pipeline and
through the marine terminal in Butinge," the MN press service said on
January 8th, Interfax News Agency reported.
The price of oil deliveries in the first five years is estimated at US$19
Following a trade deal in mid-December 2006 PKN Orlen owns over 84 per cent of
the Lithuanian oil company. At the end of July 2006 Russia suspended oil
deliveries to Lithuania along pipelines on account of a breakdown and the need
for repair. Hence Mazeikiu refinery has been operating at approximately half of
its capacity and using crude delivered by tankers to Butinge and pumped from
there along a pipeline.
Oil concern PKN Orlen to buy crude oil from Mideast
PKN Orlen oil concern did not rule out the possibility of buying crude oil from
the Middle East, reports said on December 22nd citing Igor Chalupec, CEO of the
company. Currently the company imports oil from Russia and Venezuela.
"Talks are under way, but it is difficult to say when they will end and
whether they will be successful," Chalupec was quoted as saying. PKN Orlen
is the largest petroleum product retailer in Poland and Central Europe. It
finalised the transaction to buy a 30.66 per cent stake in the Mazeikiu refinery
from the Lithuanian government recently, thus making PKN Orlen's stake in
Mazeikiu 84.36 per cent. Mazeikiu is the biggest refinery in the Baltic states
with a maximum processing capacity of 10 million tonnes annually.
Poland to help build nuclear power plant in Lithuania
Poland will join an international project to build a nuclear power plant in
Lithuania. Agreement to build this facility, which will replace the ageing
Ignalina power plant in eastern Lithuania, will be signed this year - President
of the PSE Polish energy company, Jacek Socha, said in a radio interview
This is a signal to Russia and Europe, experts say. Representatives of the
electricity companies of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland met in Warsaw to
discuss the project right at a time when Russia cut off the flow of oil to the
EU over a transit fee dispute with Belarus. Lithuanian radio journalist, Audrius
Braukyla, says the nuclear power plant project is a response to energy blackmail
'It's the beginning of a new era in the energy field in this part of the world.
It is not only about energy but it's also about policy, especially now that the
Polish oil company, Orlen, has bought Lithuania's biggest oil refinery,
Mazieikiu. Poland is now the biggest foreign investor in Lithuania. This is all
a good sign of cooperation towards acquiring independent energy sources.'
Tomasz Chmal, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Sobieski Institute think tank, says
the power plant project shows that the countries of this region are intent on
pursuing a new policy that would guarantee security to them.
'We have to distinguish different issues - one is electricity in which Poland is
independent thanks to its coal resources. Cooperation in electric energy is
mainly for the benefit of Lithuania, helping it to diversify supplies. Poland is
highly dependent on Russian oil, which supplies over 95 per cent of its needs.'
And if only for this reason Poland will not become independent of Russian oil
and natural gas supplies in the foreseeable future. The recent cut of oil
supplies over a dispute with Belarus, and when Russia closed the tap on its gas
supplies through Ukraine to Europe, alarmed the European energy markets and made
them question the reliability of Russia as a supplier.
Ferran Tarradellas, a spokesman for the European Commission, said, 'The EC has
underlined that it is unacceptable that energy suppliers or transit countries do
not inform their counterparts of any decisions that may affect the supplies.'
Tomasz Chmal stresses the need for EU solidarity in the energy security field.
'I hope that Poland and the EU will find a common approach toward Russia. This
is crucial to find a common ground for discussion and try to win individual
interests, with one country playing against the other. There is a huge need for
The nuclear power plant to be built in Lithuania, with the participation of
Poland, Latvia and Estonia, is expected to become operational by 2015. According
to recent surveys some 60 percent of Poles are in favour of using nuclear energy
for peaceful purposes.