A.

American Friends of Poland

Amerykanie w Polsce – Americans in Poland, 1919-1947 is a visually stunning bilingual catalogue for the exhibition which was held last summer in Warsaw at the History Meeting House (Dom Spotkań z Historią) in partnership with the US Embassy and American Center Warsaw. The catalogue can now be purchased online (follow instructions listed below) to help cover the expenses involved in preparing the second edition of this exhibition being planned in the US for 2021. The text is bilingual, English and Polish, making the book a perfect gift for Polish and Polish-American and Polish-Canadian friends and relatives, as well as for non-Polish Americans and non-Polish Canadians who would be interested in learning more about Poland’s history and Polish-American relations in the 20th century. By buying this book, you can help bring the exhibition to the United States.

The exhibition catalogue highlights a generation of Americans, none of whom had Polish ancestry, who devoted their talent, influence and energy to help Poland recover and defend its independence between 1919 and 1939. During WWII and immediately after, they fought against impossible odds, never giving up on their conviction that Poland would eventually rise up again. 

Among them were three diplomats: Hugh Gibson, Anthony Drexel-Biddle, Arthur Bliss Lane; military pilots including Merian Cooper; journalists including Pulitzer Prize war reporter Larry Allen; humanitarian workers including a Nobel Peace Prize winner Maurice Pate; and Herbert Hoover before and after his US presidency.

The authors of the catalogue are Jan-Roman Potocki and Vivian H. Reed. Jan-Roman Potocki graduated from the Institute d’Études Politiques in Paris and Cambridge University. His own family history motivated him to illustrate Poland’s place in the world through stories of Americans and Poles cooperating for a common cause. His uncle, Jerzy Potocki, was the Polish Ambassador in Washington (1936-1940).

Vivian H. Reed is an American historian who together with M.B.B Biskupski, Jochen Böhler and Jan-Roman Potocki wrote and edited An American in Warsaw: Selected Writings of Hugh S. Gibson, US Minister to Poland, 1919-1924.

A superb bi-lingual catalogue (EN/PL) for Amerykanie w Polsce – Americans in Poland, 1919-1947 is now available for purchase online, 120 pages, in color , with 100+ rare archive photos, soft cover.

Unfortunately, the catalogue is not listed on Amazon, but it can be purchased through a PayPal platform from Potocki Spirits Ltd (Jan-Roman Potocki is also a successful entrepreneur in charge of his family’s spirits production. If you are buying the catalogue for a library, a club, an organization or a business, you may want to alert your management that this is a book purchase in support of an educational cause.)

Order the bilingual catalogue to help bring the Americans in Poland exhibition to the United States in 2021.

https://www.paypal.me/battleforthetruth

If you follow these instructions listed here, the company promises that the book will be mailed promptly from Poland.

I ordered several copies for delivery in Poland and in the US. It is possible to leave shipping instructions on the PayPal platform. All books were shipped and delivered within the promised time period. It was possible to enter different shipping addresses in the PayPal comments section. All of my instructions were honored. For delivery in Poland, I used the regular mail price.

  • On the PayPal platform click on GBP, go down the list of currencies and choose USD currency.
  • Calculate your price for delivery to US or Canada (regular mail – 3 weeks, or airmail – 1 week).

1 catalogue: US$ 20.00 Regular Mail / US$ 25.00 Airmail
2 catalogues: US$ 40.00 Regular Mail / US$ 50.00 Airmail
3 catalogues: US$ 50.00 Regular Mail / US$ 60.00 Airmail

DO NOT CLICK on the box “goods and services” on the PayPal platform. (Clicking on it will not affect the delivery, but I was informed that not clicking “goods and services” makes it a purchase in support of an educational initiative.)

  • Provide address for delivery and any additional instructions.

I am certain that you will enjoy reading Americans in Poland as I did. In addition to being visually stunning, the book is also superbly written by Jan-Roman Potocki and Vivian H. Reed. It has one of the best concise descriptions of Polish-American relations in the 20th century.

As noted by Piotr Jakubowski, Director of the History Meeting House, the United States was one of the first countries to officially establish diplomatic relations with Poland after the end of World War I.

Without President Woodrow Wilson’s strong political support and President Herbert Hoover’s relief effort, Poland’s transition to independence would have been a much more difficult process.

It is a book not only about Americans in Poland but about American friends of Poland. I believe that most Americans, had they known all the facts before the 1944 Yalta conference, would have not tolerated President Franklin D. Roosevelt giving Stalin essentially a free hand in post-war East-Central Europe, even if not much could have been done by the United States to change the situation on the ground at the end of World War II. Anyone with any knowledge of history would have known that Stalin would not keep his promise to FDR of holding free and democratic elections. While the book only covers the period until 1947, some of the Americans whom it presents, including Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane, were already working on trying to reverse the tragic consequences of Poland’s post-Yalta fate. The authors point out that the collective reporting by US journalists who were in Poland between 1945 and 1947 “yielded important evidence of Soviet methods, but also illustrated the Poles’ efforts to rebuild their country and lives at all costs.” Ambassador Bliss Lane was urging that the Voice of America (VOA), which during the war broadcast pro-Soviet propaganda, be reformed through a change of programming and hiring of non-communist Polish refugee journalists. A few years later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ambassador Bliss Lane and a young Ronald Reagan contributed to the setting up of Radio Free Europe.

The “battle for the truth” continued during the Cold War on the basis of contributions made by the American friends of Poland highlighted in the book. They laid the ground for President Carter’s policy of advocating for human rights and peaceful engagement advised by Zbigniew Brzeziński. The culmination of this policy was President Reagan’s decisive support of Solidarity in the 1980s, the fall of communism and the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty. As US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher pointed out in her introduction to the catalogue, Poland is now “one of the strongest European allies of the United States, being part of both NATO and the European Union.” I highly recommend this book to all of my American and Canadian friends.

Please help to bring the Americans in Poland exhibition to the United States in 2021 by ordering the bilingual catalogue.

R.

Radio was a ‘childhood companion’ of Polish Nobel Prize author Olga Tokarczuk

I learned something today by reading on the Internet the Nobel Prize in Literature Lecture delivered on December 7, 2019 at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk. As a young girl growing up in Poland in the 1960s and the 1970s, a country at that time still under communist rule until 1989, she was often listening to the radio. As she described it, radio was her “great childhood companion.” In her Nobel speech, Tokarczuk mentioned hearing programs from all kinds of different stations—Warsaw, London, Luxembourg and Paris.

Olga Tokarczuk – Nobel Lecture

Only literature is capable of letting us go deep into the life of another being, understand their reasons, share their emotions and experience their fate.

Literature Laureate Olga Tokarczuk
Photo: Clément Morin

The first photograph I ever experienced consciously is a picture of my mother from before she gave birth to me. Unfortunately, it’s a black-and-white photograph, which means that many of the details have been lost, turning into nothing but gray shapes. The light is soft, and rainy, likely a springtime light, and definitely the kind of light that seeps in through a window, holding the room in a barely perceptible glow. My mom is sitting beside our old radio, and it’s the kind with a green eye and two dials—one to regulate the volume, the other for finding a station.

Photo by Dušan Tatomirović

This radio later became my great childhood companion; from it I learned of the existence of the cosmos. Turning an ebony knob shifted the delicate feelers of the antennae, and into their purview fell all kinds of different stations—Warsaw, London, Luxembourg and Paris. Sometimes, however, the sound would falter, as though between Prague and New York, or Moscow and Madrid, the antennae’s feelers stumbled onto black holes. Whenever that happened, it sent shivers down my spine. I believed that through this radio different solar systems and galaxies were speaking to me, crackling and warbling and sending me important information, and yet I was unable to decipher it.

News and literature in the age of the Internet

By Ted Lipien

Only literature is capable of letting us go deep into the life of another being, understand their reasons, share their emotions and experience their fate.

I have never met Olga Tokarczuk and never had a chance to interview her, but in 1984, when I was working for the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service broadcasting from Washington D.C., I interviewed for the radio the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Czesław Miłosz, a Polish poet of the World War II generation who had spent a good portion of his life living in exile in the United States before his death in 2004. His and Tokarczuk’s political outlook based on liberal ideas guiding their creative writing is similar, but the books they wrote express their interest in people and human events by looking at them from different angles and using different literary forms. One common theme uniting them is that Miłosz like Tokarczuk wanted to be a witness to history and was committed to preserving historical truth.

Now that I know about Olga Tokarczuk’s early fascination with radio, if I had had a chance to interview her, I would have wanted to ask her whether in her teenage years she had listened to Polish programs of Radio Free Europe, the BBC and the Voice of America as they had a great impact on me when I was growing up in Poland in the 1960s. Born in 1962, she could have heard these broadcasts if her mother had listened to them, as millions of Poles did at that time, or she may have started listening to them a few years later on her own, but she did not mention these stations by name in her Nobel Lecture. I wonder what she thought about life in Poland before the fall of communism. Did it bother her to be lied to about history by Communist Party officials and regime journalists? Did she at any time want to leave Poland and live in the West? Could she have become a great Polish writer if she had emigrated? Czesław Miłosz went into exile in the early 1950s, but he was already at that time a well-known poet in Poland.

By joining the Voice of America staff in 1973 as a young trainee-broadcaster after emigrating to the United States from Poland three years earlier, I tried to repay my debt of gratitude to the Western radio stations for giving me an honest portrayal of history. Radio was then the most powerful medium for instant international communication with nations whose rulers did not want theirs populations to receive outside news. Communist regimes resorted to jamming radio signals of these stations but without much success. Radio was the only way for journalists in the West to reach large numbers of people living in Poland under communism and is was largely the only way for the Poles to get uncensored news and information although some of them lived through World War II and experienced post-war communist repressions or they could learn about history from their parents and some of the more school teachers who were willing to take risks and teach true history to students. I had two such teachers in my youth.

In her lecture, Tokarczuk made some interesting observations how the media world has changed since the arrival of the Internet.

The world is a fabric we weave daily on the great looms of information, discussions, films, books, gossip, little anecdotes. Today the purview of these looms is enormous—thanks to the internet, almost everyone can take place in the process, taking responsibility and not, lovingly and hatefully, for better and for worse. When this story changes, so does the world. In this sense, the world is made of words.

The flood of stupidity, cruelty, hate speech and images of violence are desperately counterbalanced by all sorts of “good news,” but it hasn’t the capacity to rein in the painful impression, which I find hard to verbalize, that there is something wrong with the world. Nowadays this feeling, once the sole preserve of neurotic poets, is like an epidemic of lack of definition, a form of anxiety oozing from all directions.

There are now millions of sources of what is described as “news.“ Practically everyone with access to the world wide web can be a provider of either true knowledge or fake news, sometimes to hundreds of thousands or millions of people at practically no cost. During World War II and the Cold War, usually only governments could afford the high price of high-power transnational shortwave radio transmissions of news programs. Now, almost anyone can play the role of a journalist or a commentator. For the money totalitarian and authoritarian regimes spent before on radio transmissions, they can now hire at much less expense an army of anonymous trolls to manipulate public opinion at home and abroad.

Journalism is only as good and as honest as the people who deliver the news. Had Tokarczuk been alive during World War II and listened to wartime Voice of America broadcasts, she would have heard pro-Soviet and pro-Stalin propaganda delivered from the United States in Polish by such journalists as Mira Złotowska and Stefan Arski who later went back to Poland to work for the communist state media, or she would have heard English news written by the Stalin Peace Prize future winner, American communist author Howard Fast. However, if she had listened to the Voice of America during her youth from the 1960s until the 1980s, she would have heard the programs of the famous World War II anti-Nazi Polish underground army fighter and anti-Communist VOA broadcaster Zofia Korbońska. Had she listened to Radio Free Europe in the 1960s and the 1970s, she would have heard not only political news, but also the RFE music program, “Rendez-vous at 6:10,” hosted by Janusz Hewel. I had tuned to his program regularly in my youth and later worked with him when he was hired by the Voice of America moved to Washington, DC. She mentioned listening to Radio Luxembourg. The station was famous among teenagers in Poland for its music programs.

When it came to political news and information, the message was then, as it is now, only as good as the messenger. Tokarczuk believes that in the current informational chaos filled with hate speech, feel-good stories and fake news, literature can help readers find a deeper understanding of the world by providing a broader context in which humans look at themselves and interact which each other. In remembrance of her mother, she titled her lecture “The Tender Narrator,” hoping perhaps that she may encourage more people to communicate with love rather than hatred. Her advice may be much more difficult to apply to short-form journalism and to social media posts on the web, but journalists should pay attention to her words. Tokarczuk has received anonymous death threats on social media from fringe anti-Semitic Polish extremists. I also saw respected Voice of America journalists in the United States publicly posting a video with the VOA logo condoning violence against an American politician. The Polish extremists are almost certainly not journalists, and some of them may be Vladimir Putin’s trolls, but both in the United States and in Poland, social media outlets have contributed to destroying among journalists and other Internet users many previously observed limits of personal and journalistic decency, not to mention journalistic accuracy and objectivity.

To my disappointment, I did not find last week on the Voice of America English news website any coverage of Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel Lecture. When international news radio broadcasting was still popular, it may seem now that it was a much better medium for practicing good and comprehensive journalism, allowing for a more nuanced presentation of facts and opinions than the Internet has done so far. That may be true to some degree. VOA’s radio journalists were focused not only on delivering news censored behind the Iron Curtain but also on presenting and explaining ideas behind the news. The Internet, however, has far more information that can be instantly accessed in much less time than the radio was able to provide during the Cold War. The problem is not the amount of information but people’s ability to find accurate news and, more importantly, find an objective analysis. During the Cold War, radio listeners learned to trust some of the individual broadcasters and reject those they disagreed with, just as they do now, but now their sources of information are almost limitless, confusing, and often anonymous or operating under false flags.

For better or for worse, the era of international radio broadcasting is largely gone, as it has been replaced now in most countries by Internet-based platforms of trans-border communication. Such trans-border communication in itself is also becoming less relevant in most countries for many news consumers interested in domestic issues, unless it is managed by journalists living in diaspora who are in touch with their audience and have in-country news contacts on a daily basis. In general, people prefer the ease of using domestic media and domestic information sources for both domestic and foreign news over media outlets run by foreign governments or other foreign entities. This was also the case for practical rand technical reasons during the Cold War, but people behind the Iron Curtain knew then that not all news from domestic sources was accurate and that much of it was disinformation and propaganda. They had to rely on stations such as Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, the BBC or the Voice of America to be fully informed.

Thanks to the Internet, dissident journalists can now reach their audience in most countries and still remain independent from any inside or outside government support. They can be working in their own countries or abroad. There are still, however, states such as China, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Vietnam, Iran and Russia, where many dissident journalists are in prison. Many journalists have been victims of assassinations. Hundreds of millions of poor people still have no Internet or mobile phones. If had a chance to interview Olga Tokarczuk, I would have asked her how she would propose to bring more decency to journalism and how she would want to communicate her message to help journalists in countries without a free media in their struggle for universal human rights. Would her message be different for countries such as the United States and Poland which have a free media and free speech? Olga Tokarczuk’s idea of relying on literature to expand understanding of other people’s emotions and actions is a correct one, but what would be her advice for journalists in the era of the Internet?

Olga Tokarczuk – Nobel Lecture

How we think about the world and—perhaps even more importantly—how we narrate it have a massive significance, therefore. A thing that happens and is not told ceases to exist and perishes. This is a fact well known to not only historians, but also (and perhaps above all) to every stripe of politician and tyrant. He who has and weaves the story is in charge.

Today our problem lies—it seems—in the fact that we do not yet have ready narratives not only for the future, but even for a concrete now, for the ultra-rapid transformations of today’s world. We lack the language, we lack the points of view, the metaphors, the myths and new fables. Yet we do see frequent attempts to harness rusty, anachronistic narratives that cannot fit the future to imaginaries of the future, no doubt on the assumption that an old something is better than a new nothing, or trying in this way to deal with the limitations of our own horizons. In a word, we lack new ways of telling the story of the world.

John Amos Comenius, the great seventeenth-century pedagogue, coined the term “pansophism,” by which he meant the idea of potential omniscience, universal knowledge that would contain within it all possible cognition. This was also, and above all, a dream of information available to everyone. Would not access to facts about the world transform an illiterate peasant into a reflective individual conscious of himself and the world? Will not knowledge within easy reach mean that people will become sensible, that they will direct the progress of their lives with equanimity and wisdom?

When the Internet first came about, it seemed that this notion would finally be realized in a total way. Wikipedia, which I admire and support, might have seemed to Comenius, like many like-minded philosophers, the fulfillment of the dream of humanity—now we can create and receive an enormous store of facts being ceaselessly supplemented and updated that is democratically accessible to just about every place on Earth.

A dream fulfilled is often disappointing. It has turned out that we are not capable of bearing this enormity of information, which instead of uniting, generalizing and freeing, has differentiated, divided, enclosed in individual little bubbles, creating a multitude of stories that are incompatible with one another or even openly hostile toward each other, mutually antagonizing.

Furthermore, the Internet, completely and unreflectively subject to market processes and dedicated to monopolists, controls gigantic quantities of data used not at all pansophically, for the broader access to information, but on the contrary, serving above all to program the behavior of users, as we learned after the Cambridge Analytica affair. Instead of hearing the harmony of the world, we have heard a cacophony of sounds, an unbearable static in which we try, in despair, to pick up on some quieter melody, even the weakest beat. The famous Shakespeare quote has never been a better fit than it is for this cacophonous new reality: more and more often, the Internet is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.

Research by political scientists unfortunately also contradicts John Amos Comenius’ intuitions, which were based on the conviction that the more universally available was information about the world, the more politicians would avail themselves of reason and make considered decisions. But it would appear that the matter is not at all so simple as that. Information can be overwhelming, and its complexity and ambiguity give rise to all sorts of defense mechanisms—from denial to repression, even to escape into the simple principles of simplifying, ideological, party-line thinking.

The category of fake news raises new questions about what fiction is. Readers who have been repeatedly deceived, misinformed or misled have begun to slowly acquire a specific neurotic idiosyncrasy. The reaction to such exhaustion with fiction could be the enormous success of non-fiction, which in this great informational chaos screams over our heads: “I will tell you the truth, nothing but the truth,” and “My story is based on facts!”

Fiction has lost the readers’ trust since lying has become a dangerous weapon of mass destruction, even if it is still a primitive tool. I am often asked this incredulous question: “Is this thing you wrote really true?” And every time I feel this question bodes the end of literature.

In this ardent division into truth and falsehood, the tales of our experience that literature creates have their own dimension.

I have never been particularly excited about any straight distinction between fiction and non-fiction, unless we understand such a distinction to be declarative and discretionary. In a sea of many definitions of fiction, the one I like the best is also the oldest, and it comes from Aristotle. Fiction is always a kind of truth.

I am also convinced by the distinction between true story and plot made by the writer and essayist E.M. Forster. He said that when we say, “The king died and then the queen died,” it’s a story. But when we say, “The king died, and then the queen died of grief,” that is a plot. Every fictionalization involves a transition from the question “What happened next?” to an attempt at understanding it based on our human experience: “Why did it happen that way?”

Literature begins with that “why,” even if we were to answer that question over and over with an ordinary “I don’t know.”

Thus literature poses questions that cannot be answered with the help of Wikipedia, since it goes beyond just information and events, referring directly to our experience.

But it is possible that the novel and literature in general are becoming before our very eyes something actually quite marginal in comparison with other forms of narration. That the weight of the image and of new forms of directly transmitting experience—film, photography, virtual reality—will constitute a viable alternative to traditional reading. Reading is quite a complicated psychological and perceptual process. To put it simply: first the most elusive content is conceptualized and verbalized, transforming into signs and symbols, and then it is “decoded” back from language into experience. That requires a certain intellectual competence. And above all it demands attention and focus, abilities ever rarer in today’s extremely distracting world.

Humanity has come a long way in its ways of communicating and sharing personal experience, from orality, relying on the living word and human memory, through the Gutenberg Revolution, when stories began to be widely mediated by writing and in this way fixed and codified as well as possible to reproduce without alteration. The major attainment of this change was that we came to identify thinking with language, with writing. Today we are facing a revolution on a similar scale, when experience can be transmitted directly, without recourse to the printed word.

There is no longer any need to keep a travel diary when you can simply take pictures and send those pictures via social networking sites straight into the world, at once and to all. There is no need to write letters, since it is easier to call. Why write fat novels, when you can just get into a television series instead? Instead of going out on the town with friends, it would be better to play a game. Reach for an autobiography? There’s no point, since I am following the lives of celebrities on Instagram and know everything about them.

It is not even the image that is the greatest opponent of text today, as we thought back in the twentieth century, worrying about the influence of television and film. It is instead a completely different dimension of the world—acting directly on our senses.

I don’t want to sketch an overall vision of crisis in telling stories about the world. But I’m often troubled by the feeling that there is something missing in the world―that by experiencing it through glass screens, and through apps, somehow it becomes unreal, distant, two-dimensional, and strangely non-descript, even though finding any particular piece of information is astoundingly easy. These days the worrying words “someone, “something,” “somewhere,” “some time” can seem riskier than very specific, definite ideas uttered with complete certainty―such as that “the earth is flat,” “vaccinations kill,” “climate change is nonsense,” or “democracy is not under threat anywhere in the world.” “Somewhere” some people are drowning as they try to cross the sea. “Somewhere,” for “some” time, “some sort of” a war has been going on. In the deluge of information individual messages lose their contours, dissipate in our memory, become unreal and vanish.

Literature is one of the few spheres that try to keep us close to the hard facts of the world, because by its very nature it is always psychological, because it focuses on the internal reasoning and motives of the characters, reveals their otherwise inaccessible experience to another person, or simply provokes the reader into a psychological interpretation of their conduct. Only literature is capable of letting us go deep into the life of another being, understand their reasons, share their emotions and experience their fate.

For full text of Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel Lecture, see:

Olga Tokarczuk Nobel Lecture: The Tender Narrator

G.

George Soros’ building in NYC saw Voice of America’s early love affair with Stalin

By Ted Lipien for Cold War Radio Museum

The Argonaut Building in New York City at 224 West 57 and Broadway, where first Voice of America (VOA) radio programs were produced in 1942, is now the headquarters of Open Society Foundations (OSF), formerly the Open Society Institute, originally created and funded by billionaire investor and philanthropist  George Soros to help countries move away from communism. According to online sources, OSF signed a 30-year lease for office space in the building in 2011. When the Voice of America used the building as its headquarters from 1942 until 1953, there were both communists and anti-communists among its early journalists and officials. From 1942 until the end of World War II, VOA was under the firm control of Soviet sympathizers and employed a fair number of communists. In a later period, a large number of anti-communist VOA broadcasters worked at the same location in New York.

Alan L. Heil, Jr., former VOA deputy director of programs, noted in his book, Voice of America: A History, that Voice of America had its start in 1942 in the Argonaut Building in Midtown Manhattan:

There was a huge buildup of the Voice staff in the summer of 1942 after it became part of the Office of War Information, with the acquisition of many floors in the old Argonaut Building on West Fifty-seveth Street, in Manhattan, and expansion to sixteen studios, several score program lines, and forty transmitters in distant locations. 1

As stated on the OSF website, Soros began his philanthropic work in 1979 by funding scholarships for black university students in South Africa during apartheid and for dissidents in communist Eastern Europe to study in the West. During the Cold War, his foundations paid for distribution of photocopiers to independent groups “to break the Communist Party’s grip on information.”

Today, George Soros’ foundations give money to groups and individuals in more than 120 countries. A post on the OSF website says that since 1984 Soros has given away $32 billion of his personal fortune made in the financial markets. As reported by the New York Times in October 2017, “George Soros, the billionaire hedge fund manager and a major Democratic donor, has given $18 billion to his Open Society Foundations, one of the largest transfers of wealth ever made by a private donor to a single foundation.”

A New York Times article by David Gelles pointed out in 2017 that some of Soros’ philanthropic activities have become controversial: “His [Soros’] political focus — including large donations to Hillary Clinton and other Democratic politicians — has made Mr. Soros a target of criticism from both the Republican establishment and fringe elements of the far right.”

During the Cold War, George Soros used his fortune to support establishment of open societies and democracy in East-Central Europe, in the Soviet Union and in China. The focus of his philanthropic activities in the communist world was then on supporting basic human rights.

Ironically, during World War II, many American and foreign communists working for the Voice of America in the Argonaut Building in New York and spread propaganda in support of pro-Soviet communist regimes in East-Central Europe, including Hungary, where George Soros was born in 1930. It took the Voice of America several years after World War II to reform the management of its programs and to replace pro-Soviet journalists with anti-communist refugee journalists from Europe and Asia, such as Polish anti-Nazi fighter Zofia Korbońska who was hired in 1948 after escaping from communist-ruled Poland. These new journalists eventually changed VOA into a radio station that opposed communism and advanced freedom and democracy.

One of the contributors to Cold War VOA Hungarian programs was former United Press reporter in Hungary Ilona Marton. She was imprisoned by the communist regime and after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution became a political refugee in the United States together with her journalist husband, Associated Press reporter Endre Marton. Their daughter, Kati Marton, is a best-selling author and former NPR and ABC News correspondent.Through her daughter Kati, Dr. Iliona Marton was the mother-in-law of broadcaster Peter Jennings and U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke. 2

Another refugee from communism, Heda Margolius Kovály, was a freelance reporter for VOA Czechoslovak Service in the 1970s when Voice of America headquarters were already in Washington, D.C. She was the wife and later widow of Rudolf Margolius (1913 – 1952), Czechoslovak Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade (1949–1952) in the Soviet-dominated regime. Her husband later became the youngest communist co-defendant in the infamous 1952 Rudolf Slánský trial. He was condemned to death on trumped-up espionage charges and executed. Her VOA radio name was Kaca Kralova.

But Voice of America personnel and broadcasts produced during World War II were completely different from what they became several years after the war. One of the pro-Soviet communists working for VOA at 224 West 57 Street in New York during World War II was American author and journalist Howard Fast—future [1953] Stalin International Peace Prize (worth about $235,000 in 2019 dollars) winner, future Communist Party USA member and future reporter for the Daily Worker Communist Party newspaper. He was recruited in 1942 by first VOA director, future Hollywood actor John Houseman, to become the chief news writer and news director—a position he held until he resigned in early 1944. His patron, John Houseman, who hired many of VOA’s early communist broadcasters, resigned earlier due to behind-the-scenes complaints from President Roosevelt’s foreign policy advisor, Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, and from General Dwight D. Eisenhower. At that time, Voice of America studios were in New York City while VOA’s original federal agency, the Office of War Information (OWI), was in Washington, DC. VOA used the Argonaut Building studios in New York until 1953 when most of VOA’s broadcasting operations were moved to Washington. During World War II, VOA served as both anti-Nazi and pro-Soviet propaganda outlet. It covered up and censored news about Stalin’s crimes.

Howard Fast’s recruitment to become VOA’s first chief news writer and news director is described in his biography by Gerald Sorin,  Howard Fast: Life and Literature in the Left Lane (Indiana University Press, 2012). Fast also wrote about his work for VOA in his autobiography, Being Red. 3 Fast left the Communist Party in the mid-1950s after Stalin’s crimes were disclosed by new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Former Voice of America journalist and news director Howard Fast, who got his World War II Russia news from the Soviet Embassy and rejected information unfavorable to Russia as anti-Soviet propaganda, later claimed that he had no idea Stalin was a mass murderer.

In his book about Howard Fast, Gerald Sorin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of American and Jewish Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz, made several references to Fast’s work for the Voice of America during World War II.  Sorin’s book, Irving Howe: A Life of Passionate Dissent, received the 2003 National Jewish Book Award in History. His other books include The Prophetic Minority: American Jewish Immigrant Radicals, 1880–1920 (Indiana University Press, 1985).

From Gerald Sorin’s biography of Howard Fast:

[Louis]Untermeyer, a former editor of the Marxist journal The Masses, who was writing propaganda pamphlets for the Office of War Information (OWI), suggested that Howard [Fast], instead of aimlessly wandering the streets, apply for the same sort of position. Fast was reluctant, never having done that kind of work before. But during his visit to the OWI building on Broadway and 57th Street, he was impressed with the people he met, especially Elmer Davis, the well-known writer and news reporter who directed the OWI; Joseph Barnes, veteran editor and foreign correspondent for the Herald Tribune, who (along with Walter Duranty of the New York Times), did much to put a veil of ignorance over the worst of Stalin’s crimes; and John Houseman, the [future] Academy Award–winning actor and filmmaker, who worked at the OWI for the Voice of America (VOA). 4

Sorin’s description of early VOA journalists as followers of Walter Duranty is confirmed by declassified U.S. government records of the Office of War Information where VOA broadcasts originated. Duranty who was the New York Times correspondent in the Soviet Union during the 1930s consistently lied about Stalin’s crimes. He received the Pulitzer Prize and was the model of an activist journalist for many pro-communist early Voice of America radio broadcasters and officials who were U.S. federal government employees. Among them were Howard Fast, Joseph Barnes,  John Houseman,  and Robert E. Sherwood. Described as one of the founding fathers of the Voice of America, Sherwood was FDR’s speech writer and playwright who coordinated U.S. propaganda with Soviet propaganda at the OWI and in his weekly propaganda directives made sure that VOA followed the Kremlin’s line.

While the Roosevelt White House was strongly pro-Soviet, many of VOA officials and broadcasters were far more radical in their admiration for the Soviet Union and their naïveté in accepting Stalin’s propaganda lies as truthful news. In 1950, Howard Fast was compelled to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities but refused to disclose the names of contributors to a fund for a home for orphans of American veterans of the Spanish Civil War (one of the contributors was Eleanor Roosevelt), which became a communist front organization. He was given a three-month prison sentence for contempt of Congress. While he was at Mill Point Federal Prison, Fast began writing his most famous book, Spartacus.

This part of VOA’s history has been hidden from the American public and taxpayers, making oversight and preventing current journalistic abuses at the Voice of America more difficult. I was saddened to see that since about 2016, some VOA reporters and editors have started to present American and foreign Communists, Angela Davis and Che Guevara, as fighters for human rights and revolutionary heroes. The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) which now manages the Voice of America, has also became embroiled in a controversy over a TV Marti report about George Soros, produced in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and other critics charged that the report was anti-Semitic. This led to the dismissal of several TV Marti reporters, but higher-level OCB and USAGM managers, some of them appointed during the Obama administration, were not held accountable.

Notes:

  1. Alan L. Heil, Jr., Voice of America: A History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 41.
  2. Kati Marton, Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009), 225.
  3. Howard Fast, Being Red (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), 18-19.
  4. Gerald Sorin, Howard Fast: Life and Literature in the Left Lane (Indiana University Press, 2012), 60.
S.

Stefan Korboński with Tadeusz Lipień in 1976

My photo with the great Polish patriot, anti-Nazi fighter, and political leader Stefan Korboński was taken on June 20, 1976 in front of the White House on the day of my daughter’s baptism. Stefan and his wife, Zofia Korbońska, my colleague in the Polish Service of the Voice of America (VOA), were Leokadia W. Lipien’s (Lodi Rohrer) godparents.

Stefan Korboński (2 March 1901 in Praszka – 23 April 1989 in Washington, D.C., USA) was a Polish agrarian politician, lawyer, journalist and a notable member of the wartime authorities of the Polish Secret State. Among others, he was the last person to hold the post of Government Delegate for Poland. Arrested by the NKVD in 1945, he was released soon afterwards only to be forced into exile. He settled in the United States, where he remained active among the local Polish diaspora. An active journalist, he was among the few people whose names were completely banned by the communist censorship in Poland. READ MORE in Wikipedia

Zofia Korbońska and Tadeusz Lipień in the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service in 1974.
Zofia Korbońska and Tadeusz Lipień in the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service in 1974.

Zofia Korbońska, née Ristau (10 May 1915 in Warsaw – 16 August 2010 in Washington, D.C.) was a Polish resistance fighter and journalist.

She was born in Warsaw and graduated from the Maria Konopnicka High School and School of Political Sciences there. In 1938 she married a lawyer and Polish People’s Party politician Stefan Korboński. During World War II, in 1941, she helped to organize the underground radio station, which sent the coded radio transmissions to the Polish government in exile. Her dispatches spread the news about German atrocities committed in Poland.[1] As a member of Armia Krajowa, Korbońska eventually took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. In June 1945, she was arrested by NKVD together with her husband.[1] They were released after the creation of the Provisional Government of National Unity. In 1947, when her husband was in danger of another arrest, they fled together to Sweden hiding in a ship transporting coal.[1] Since November 1947, they lived in the United States, where she worked in the Voice of America and Polish American Congress.

In 2006 she was given the title of honorary citizen of the Capital City of WarsawPresident of Poland Lech Kaczyński awarded her the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.[2] She struggled with illness for a few years before her death on 16 August 2010. She was buried at the Polish Cemetery in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

READ in Wikipedia

References

  1. Ted Lipien: Remembering a Polish-American patriot at the Washington Times, 1 September 2010.
  2.  Nie żyje Zofia Korbońska at tvn24.pl, 16 August 2010.
V.

Voice of America? – Why The Question Mark?

In 1948, Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate charged that Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts contained “baloney,” “lies,” “insults,” “drivel,” “nonsense and falsehoods,” amounting to “useless expenditures” and “a downright tragedy.”

In 1948, U.S. senators called VOA programs “ridiculous,” “unjustified” and “deplorable.” Liberal, moderate, and conservative lawmakers, some of whom even accused the Voice of America of “slander” and “libel” in how several U.S. states were described in radio programs acquired from NBC under a government contract, did not seek to de-fund and close down VOA but wanted to make it more effective in presenting America to the world and in countering propaganda from Soviet Russia. Their criticism eventually led to partial personnel and programming reforms in the early 1950s. In 2019, history seems to be repeating itself, with similar problems being reported at the Voice of America as the United States tries to respond to propaganda from Putin’s Russia, communist China, theocratic Iran and other nations under authoritarian rule. Today, there is little interest in the U.S. Congress and no obvious signs of management reforms, while some of the problems seem now more difficult to solve than those besetting the broadcaster in 1948.

Read more
S.

Stalin Prize-Winning Chief Writer of Voice of America News

Cold War Radio Museum

The News Bureau room of the Office of War Information (OWI), November 1942, at about the same time Howard Fast started writing Voice of America newscasts. The photograph’s official caption said: “It is arranged much the same way as the city room of a daily newspaper. Here, war news of the world is disseminated. In the foreground, are editors’ desks handling such special services as trade press, women’s activities, and campaigns. The news desk is in the background.” Smith, Roger, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540.

VOA logo, 2019.
Yankee Doodle Voice of America (VOA) signature tune reportedly proposed by VOA chief news writer (1942-1943) Howard Fast who later received the 1953 Stalin International Peace Prize.

 “I established contact at the Soviet embassy with people who spoke English and were willing to feed me important bits and pieces from their side of the wire. I had long ago, somewhat facetiously, suggested ‘Yankee Doodle’ as our musical signal, and now that silly little jingle was a power cue, a note of hope everywhere on earth…” 1

Howard Fast, 1953 Stalin Peace Prize winner, best-selling author, journalist, former Communist Party member and reporter for its newspaper The Daily Worker, decribing his role as the chief writer of Voice of America (VOA) radio news translated into multiple languages and rebroadcast for four hours daily to Europe through medium wave transmitters leased from the BBC in 1942-1943. Howard Fast, Being Red (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), pp. 18-19.
Read more

Notes:

  1. Howard Fast, Being Red (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), 18-19.
V.

Vice President George H.W. Bush interviewed for Voice of America by Ted Lipien and Wayne Corey in 1987

Cold War Radio Museum Cold War Radio Museum
 

Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service director Ted Lipien and VOA English Service correspondent Wayne Corey interviewed the then Vice President George H.W. Bush on September 24, 1987 in his office in Washington shortly before his trip to Italy to see Pope John Paul II and to Poland to confer with government and opposition leaders. The faltering government of General Jaruzelski agreed to a visit by the U.S. Vice President, during which he urged Jaruzelski to come to terms with Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa. Subsequent negotiations between the regime and the opposition resulted in a peaceful transition to democracy in Poland.

Vice President Bush also met with Polish Catholic bishops and visited the grave of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko who had been murdered by officers of the communist secret police because of his support for the Solidarity independent trade union and pro-democracy opposition movement in Poland. The Vice President met at the gravesite with the parents of the slain priest.
 
 

 
 
Ted Lipien traveled with Vice President Bush to Poland and filed reports in English and in Polish for the Voice of America.
 
 

 
 

Avoiding being monitored by the secret police, Lipien went by train to Gdańsk to conduct an interview with Lech Wałesa.
 
 

 
 
Vice President Bush’s visit to Poland in 1987 on behalf of President Ronald Reagan came shortly before the fall of communism and the end of Soviet domination.

Both the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe contributed to supporting democratic opposition in Poland with uncensored information and, primarily in the case of Radio Free Europe, commentary on human rights violations and other problems of communism. In later years, especially during the Reagan administration, the Voice of America also started to report extensively on domestic developments in Poland and regularly broadcast telephone interviews with Polish opposition leaders.

Former President George H.W. Bush died in Houston, Texas on November 30, 2018 at age 94.
 
 

Highlights of Vice President George H.W. Bush 1987 Interview with Voice of America

Vice President George H.W. Bush: I’m very much looking forward to this visit. It gives me the opportunity to do two things: consult with the Western European leaders the alliance, NATO, discuss the recent developments in arms control, take a look at the future as well, in secondly to go to Poland.

There’s great affection from the American people for the people of Poland.

And this visit, the highest level visit some 10 years, will give the United States that America through me an opportunity to express our feelings about the Polish people, the heroism of the Polish people, to deal openly with the government and hopefully to move forward the relationship that has great potential in the future.

Wayne Corey, VOA: Poland will be the main focus of your trip. Why are you going to Poland now and is there anything specific you hope to accomplish in terms of agreements?

Vice President George H.W. Bush: Well, there are one or two specific things that frankly I am not at liberty to speak about here that I do want to talk to General Jaruzelski about. It is a forward step in our policy and differentiation.

There is an affection in the United States for the people of Poland. It’s important that that affection be expressed through high-level visits from time to time. We have differences on the system but we want to narrow those differences as best we can.

I’ll be meeting with the leaders of Solidarność and our country stands for free unions and human rights. And I’ll have of opportunity to discuss these along the way that both the government and other others, Church people. So, it’ s visit of showing our belief and affection for the people.

Ted Lipien, VOA Polish Service: What specific steps can the United States government take to help Poland economically and would such help depend on the human rights situation and economic reform?

Vice President George H.W. Bush: Well again, I won’t go into the details on the specific steps, but clearly our policy is looking for changes in human rights, changes in respect for institutions and individuals. Some progress has been made, but we, the American people, believe firmly that more changes must take place, and that of course is the position of the (U.S.) government.

We have been helpful, things have improved, but I’ll be talking about some specifics, may be things we can do to make the lot of the Polish people better, but it needs, it will need cooperation from the government.

Ted Lipien, VOA Polish Service:Is there a consensus between the Administration and the Congress on U.S. policy toward Poland and generally toward Eastern Europe?

Vice President George H.W. Bush: Generally, there is. As I mentioned, there’s a policy of differentiation. We recognize realities, but we want to encourage people to to come forward on human rights. We want to encourage more trade. We want to encourage more flexibility. These are sovereign countries. They should be as flexible as possible, move at their own pace as much as possible. So, the policy that’s referred to as a policy of differentiation does have the support, I think, of the Congress and of our government.

Lastly, I think we’re together with Congress on the approaches we should be taking to Poland, and part of that is because there are so many Polish Americans, so many people in our country who have this love and affection for the homeland. Poland has almost a unique standing in the government, with our government, and with the Congress itself. So, I think we’re together on the policy. There are some difference. Some people are harder-line on one point, softer-line on another, but basically our policy of trying to help with the economy, our policy on human rights has broad support.

Ted Lipien, VOA Polish Service:If I may go back to Poland. President Reagan has shown great personal interest in the situation in Poland. Did you have a chance to discuss this trip with him?

Vice President George H.W. Bush: Yes. As a matter of fact, I’ve just finished lunch with him, just discussed it. You know, it’s my fervent hope that President Reagan could go to Poland some day because, I tell you, he would get a very warm reception from the Polish people. Whether that’s possible or not, I don’t know, but I’m very glad to be going myself as the second highest official in the U.S. government.

Ted Lipien, VOA Polish Service: Do you often have an opportunity to discuss the policy toward Poland with the Polish American leaders?

Vice President George H.W. Bush: I had some opportunity to do that. I visited the Polish-American national Congress out there. We had a visit from its President Al Mazewski here just the other day. I’ve stayed in touch with Polish sentiments through various people, including one of our top people at the State Department, former colleague in Congress Ed Derwinski. I’ve talked to Danny Rostenkowski, the Democratic leader in the Congress about his trip to Poland, to the (Poznan) Fair. So, I’ve tried to stay in touch with the heartbeat of Polish-Americans because we should be responsive to their concerns as we formulate our policy with Poland.

And I think it sums up that most Polish Americans want to help the Polish people but have some concerns about the regime and hope that a visit like this might give us an opportunity to forcefully present to the regime in Poland the concerns of the American Polish community. And I plan to do that and to be frank about it. And I think I’ll have an opportunity to do just that.

Also, the Church. As you deal with Polish Americans you realize over and over again the importance of faith, of the Church itself in Poland. And I go to Poland looking forward to seeing Cardinal Glemp and hopefully other leaders in the Church.

Ted Lipien, VOA Polish Service:Will you also meet with Lech Walesa?

Vice President George H.W. Bush:I think it’s scheduled to do that. And I think it is very important that I do that. And it’s more than symbolism. We respect him as an individual for his courage. That’s been stated over again. But we also want to see Poland lighten up, if they can, on the on the trade union movement. And I think it’s important that Polish leaders know from high-level in this Administration how strongly we feel about individual rights, human rights, the opportunity for individuals to get ahead. And when they are able to make some movement in terms of whether it’s more privatization on farming or whatever it is, and we say hey, that’s good, we like to see more of that.

And they don’t have to do it our way, but to get the kind of support from the United States that many Americans would like to see go to the Polish people, there has to be some forward movement. And, that’s all I’ll say. They can do what they want, but we’re the United States and here are our standards and here is where we would like to see progress.

END OF INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

 
 

In 1987, the U.S. Department of State upgraded the status of the Consulate in Krakow, designating it as a Consulate General. On September 29, 1987, visiting U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush led a designation ceremony and spoke about the strength of U.S.-Polish ties, especially ties with Southern Poland. He also spoke about his visit earlier that day to the Nazi Concentration Camp at Auschwitz. Vice President Bush’s visit to Auschwitz, his visit to Krakow, designation of the Consulate General, and visit to the Polish-American Children’s Hospital in Krakow were major public diplomacy events while Poland still had a communist government.

Vice President George H.W. Bush: “It is my great pleasure to be in this beautiful city today, to participate in this ceremony, which raises our mission here to the Consulate General level.
 
This mission symbolizes American presence, not just in Krakow, but in all southern Poland which is the ancestral home of many millions of Americans of Polish descent.
 
This city has long played a central role in the history of Poland and the Polish people. And when one sees the magnificent architecture with which the Polish kings embellished the city, it’s easy to recall that Krakow was once the capital of Poland. In her monuments and art, she remains a royal city.
 
But the contrast — these achievements and culture, civilization — stand in stark contrast to the barbarism evidenced by the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz which we visited this morning.
 
The brutal and tragic horrors of Auschwitz serve as grim reminder of man’s capacity for evil.
 
The denial of human rights, the denial of human dignity leads ultimately to this: the attempted extermination of an entire people.
 
As Eli Wiesel said to me last week just before I left on my trip, not all the victims were Jews, but all the Jews were victims.
 
At the end of this Nazi slaughter, six million Jews were dead. Thank God it didn’t succeed completely.
 
Thank God courageous Poles, risking the lives of themselves and their families, sheltered tens of thousands of Jews from their Nazi enemies. Many of them paid the ultimate price for their courage and humanity.
 
Hundreds of thousands of Christians met their ends in the awful death camps we paid solemn witness to this morning.
 
Today we saw the cell of Father Maximilian Kolbe who sacrificed his life for that of a fellow prisoner and was canonized by the Catholic Church.
 
Let’s all pledge today our eternal vigilance that crimes of this magnitude will happen never again, for it’s been written that in remembrance lies the secret of redemption.
 
On this trip to your country, Mr. President (Krakow’s mayor) we’ve sought to strengthen the long and cordial ties between the Polish and American people, ties that date to the very birth of the United States.
 
At the time of the American Revolution, Polish patriots crossed the dangerous ocean to offer their assistance to a people struggling to free themselves from foreign domination.”

In 1987, Poland’s communist regime organized a referendum on political and economic reforms. The referendum was held on November 29, 1987. Around a third of eligible voters did not participate, defying the regime. It was the first time that Communist authorities in Eastern Europe had lost a vote.

Ted Lipien covered the referendum for the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service. After the vote, he took a train from Warsaw to Gdańsk and interviewed Wałęsa who by then had been already freed by the communist authorities from martial law detention but was still under strict police surveillance. The interview was recorded at the parish house of Wałęsa’s church in Gdańsk. The recording was sent by phone to Washington and broadcast the next day to Poland.

Link to audio.

In the 1987 interview, Wałęsa did not attach much importance to the just concluded referendum, which — as he pointed out — was not organized according to basic democratic principles. For one thing, as he pointed out, Solidarity and other oppositions groups in Poland were not consulted on the referendum and had no access to domestic media prior to the vote.

In the interview, Wałęsa said that Solidarity and the government have no choice but to reach an agreement.

He strongly objected, however, to the regime’s reluctance to enter into a real dialogue. In answering a question under what conditions Solidarity would participate in talks with the Communist regime, Wałęsa answered:

“If the authorities invent terms such as ‘socialist pluralism’, ‘socialist economy’, ‘socialist law’ ‘socialist safety net’, then there is nothing to talk about. We can say that the law is good or bad, the economy works well or not, but not to invent absurdities.”

“We propose to the authorities political pluralism, so that we would not find out after 40 years what we are learning today: that Stalin was a murderer, that Khrushchev was an ignorant man who did not use the opportunity to really show himself, that Brezhnev destroyed chances and opportunities and cut the legs under socialism. We need political pluralism so that such things would not happen and we would not be ruled by murderers and others.”

“The condition is to say that there is only one pluralism and that there is no [such thing as] socialist pluralism. If we will talk in these terms, then there are no conditions. We are ready to talk.”

Asked about an upcoming meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Wałęsa expressed hope that during these talks a point would be made that without real reforms, Poland and the rest of the Soviet block would continue to represent a danger to the rest of the world due to instability and risk of unpredictable events and potential violence.

Asked about the visit to Poland by Vice President George H.W. Bush a few weeks earlier, Wałęsa said:

“I’m personally very pleased that I had a chance to get to know such an outstanding representative of the American people, and now I know that the United States is in such an excellent position because it has such outstanding leaders. I hope that he will lead after the next elections.”

Wałęsa in effect endorsed George H.W. Bush for his planned presidential run in 1988. Asked whether he would like to travel to the United States, Wałęsa said that like everybody else he would like to see America but that current political conditions in Poland prevent him from making a trip.

Wałęsa made it to the United States in 1989. He was the first recipient of the Liberty Medal, on 4 July 1989 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and that same year received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is the only Pole to have addressed a joint meeting of the United States Congress (15 November 1989).

“There’s great affection from the American people for the people of Poland.” – Vice President George H.W. Bush, September 24, 1987

 

 
 

W.

We are condemned to reach an agreement in Poland, Walesa told VOA Polish Service in 1987

Poland’s communist regime organized a referendum on political and economic reforms, which was held on 29 November 1987. Around a third of eligible voters did not participate, defying the regime. It was the first time that Communist authorities in Eastern Europe had lost a vote.

I covered the referendum for the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service. After the vote, I took a train from Warsaw to Gdańsk and interviewed Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa who by then had been already freed by the communist authorities from martial law detention but was still under strict police surveillance. I found Wałęsa at the parish house of his church in Gdańsk.

Link to audio.

This was not the first interview, the VOA Polish Service did with Wałęsa. The first one was done by Polish Service reporter Peter Mroczyk by telephone in August 1985.

In his interview with me in 1987, Wałęsa did not attach much importance to the just concluded referendum, which — as he pointed out — was not organized according to basic democratic principles. For one thing, as he pointed out, Solidarity and other oppositions groups in Poland were not consulted and had no access to domestic media prior to the vote.

In the interview, Wałęsa said that Solidarity and the government have no choice but to reach an agreement.

He strongly objected, however, to the regime’s reluctance to enter into a real dialogue. In answering my question under what conditions Solidarity would participate in talks with the Communist regime, Wałęsa answered:

“If the authorities invent terms such as ‘socialist pluralism’, ‘socialist economy’, ‘socialist law’ ‘socialist safety net’, then there is nothing to talk about. We can say that the law is good or bad, the economy works well or not, but not to invent absurdities.”

“We propose to the authorities political pluralism, so that we would not find out after 40 years what we are learning today: that Stalin was a murderer, that Khrushchev was an ignorant man who did not use the opportunity to really show himself, that Brezhnev destroyed chances and opportunities and cut the legs under socialism. We need political pluralism so that such things would not happen and we would not be ruled by murderers and others.”

“The condition is to say that there is only one pluralism and that there is no [such thing as] socialist pluralism. If we will talk in these terms, then there are no conditions. We are ready to talk.”

Asked about an upcoming meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Wałęsa expressed hope that during these talks a point would be made that without real reforms, Poland and the rest of the Soviet block would continue to represent a danger to the rest of the world due to instability and risk of unpredictable events and potential violence.

Asked about the visit to Poland by Vice President George H.W. Bush earlier in 1987, Wałęsa said:

“I’m personally very pleased that I had a chance to get to know such an outstanding representative of the American people, and now I know that the United States is in such an excellent position because it has such outstanding leaders. I hope that he will lead after the next elections.”

Wałęsa in effect endorsed Bush for his planned presidential run in 1988. Asked whether he would like to travel to the United States, Wałęsa said that like everybody else he would like to see America but that current conditions prevent him from making a trip at this time.

1.

1984 Interview With Czeslaw Miłosz on Polish-Jewish Relations (in Polish – po polsku)

Link to audio.

The interview (in Polish – po polsku) with Czesław Miłosz was recorded in Oxford on September 19, 1984 at a conference on Polish-Jewish relations.

Miłosz talks about Poland’s multicultural traditions, Polish-Jewish relations in the 19th century, during the interwar period, and under communism. He discusses anti-Semitism, Polish-Jewish relations in his home city of Wilno (Vilnius – now in Lithuania) before World War II, Polish-Jewish writers and literature, the anti-Semitic campaign launched by the communists in Poland in 1968, and Jewish-Catholic dialogue in Poland still under communist rule.

At the end of the interview, which was recorded for and broadcast by the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service, Czesław Miłosz expresses hope for the future of Polish-Jewish relations and praises the involvement of young Poles in preserving Jewish heritage in Poland.

The interview was recorded by VOA Polish Service director Ted Lipien.