R.

Russian propaganda at WWII Voice of America

Russian propaganda influence in the United States is not new.

“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”*

*Howard Fast. Being Red (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), p. 18.

Howard Fast was Voice of America (VOA) chief radio news writer and editor in the U.S. Office of War Information (early 1943-January 1944), Communist Party USA member and news reporter (approx. 1944-1957), Stalin International Peace Prize winner (1953), and best-selling American author. He was one of many pro-Soviet communist activists and journalists recruited by the first VOA Director John Houseman. Easily deceived, they helped to spread the Kremlin’s propaganda abroad in Voice of America wartime broadcasts and domestically to Americans through OWI press releases, radio programs, mass mailings, posters and exhibits. Stalin was America’s important war partner against Hitler in 1943, but he was earlier Nazi Germany’s ally in launching World War II and in annexing neighboring states. Howard Fast’s trusted Soviet news sources used in VOA broadcasts represented the regime responsible for the genocide of millions of people.

Russian propaganda influence in the United States is not new.


“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”*

*Howard Fast. Being Red (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), p. 18.

Howard Fast was Voice of America (VOA) chief radio news writer and editor in the U.S. Office of War Information (early 1943-January 1944), Communist Party USA member and news reporter (approx. 1944-1957), Stalin International Peace Prize winner (1953), and best-selling American author. He was one of many pro-Soviet communist activists and journalists recruited by the first VOA Director John Houseman. Easily deceived, they helped to spread the Kremlin’s propaganda abroad in Voice of America wartime broadcasts and domestically to Americans through OWI press releases, radio programs, mass mailings, posters and exhibits. Stalin was America’s important war partner against Hitler in 1943, but he was earlier Nazi Germany’s ally in launching World War II and in annexing neighboring states. Howard Fast’s trusted Soviet news sources used in VOA broadcasts represented the regime responsible for the genocide of millions of people.

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

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

 

 
 

V.

Voice of America Polish Service Broadcaster Irene Broni Resisted Nazis and Communists

By Ted Lipien

Voice of America Polish Service Program “All About America” (Ameryka w Przekroju), July 9, 1983

Irena Radwańska Broni: Returning to the U.S. citizenship oath ceremony at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson would certainly approve of using his home for this purpose. … Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in our society, ….” 1

Irene Broni (Irena Radwańska), who died two years ago on July 22, 2016, was one of the most versatile and talented former Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service radio broadcasters. She helped to transform the Voice of America from being a colluding voice for Stalin’s propaganda during World War II to a genuine and trusted voice for freedom during the Cold War. As a teenager, she fought and was wounded in the first days of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis, which the then Voice of America in the United States Office of War Information (OWI), dominated by pro-Soviet sympathizers, almost completely ignored to comply with Stalin’s wishes who wanted to see the uprising fail and the Polish anti-communist underground army destroyed. Czesław Straszewicz, a Polish journalist based in London during the war, wrote in the 1950s about the harsh negative impact of VOA’s pro-Kremlin wartime broadcasts on the audience in Nazi-occupied Poland and among the free Poles abroad.

“With genuine horror we listened to what the Polish language programs of the Voice of America (or whatever name they had then), in which in line with what [the Soviet news agency] TASS was communicating, the Warsaw Uprising was being completely ignored.” 2

After being sent to a forced labor camp in Nazi Germany following the collapse of the uprising, Irena later found her way to the Polish Army of General Władysław Anders which was fighting alongside American, British and other allied troops against the Germans in Italy. Since she was still a minor, the Polish Army sent her to a school in the British Palestine.

After the war, like many Poles in the West who saw their country betrayed by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at wartime conferences with Stalin at Tehran and Yalta, Irena did not return to communist-ruled, Soviet-dominated Poland. She finished her education at a music conservatory in London and later worked as a pianist with Polish emigre artists. Later during the Cold War, she spent eight years as a host of various music and history programs at the American-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE) in Munich, West Germany.

After emigrating to the United States and working several years as a pianist, Irene Broni, whose radio name at VOA was Irena Radwańska, joined in 1977 the Voice of America Polish Service team which was working to establish VOA’s reputation in Poland as a pro-freedom American radio broadcaster. This was achieved thanks to such great journalists as Zofia Korbońska, another hero of the Warsaw Uprising, Irena Radwańska and many others who had joined the VOA Polish Service after the war and replaced its former pro-Soviet staff.

During World War II, the Voice of America was a major conduit for Soviet propaganda. Its first director, John Houseman, was forced to resign in 1943 after high-level officials in the State Department secretly accused him to the FDR White House of hiring Communists. But some of Houseman’s successors at VOA and some of the early Polish Service broadcasters continued to follow the Soviet line for the rest of the war by minimizing reporting on the Polish Government in Exile in London, its armed forces fighting the Germans, and the Warsaw Uprising. As hearings before a bipartisan committee of the House of Representatives revealed in 1952, some of these early VOA Polish Service broadcasters returned to Poland after the war to work as anti-American propagandists for the communist regime.

The anti-Nazi Polish armed revolt in August 1944 was launched by the underground resistance movement Armia Krajowa (Home Army), which Irena joined despite her young age. During that time, VOA largely ignored anti-Nazi Poles like her because they refused to support Soviet rule in Poland. But in later years, thanks to Irena and her older VOA colleagues, some of whom also had fought the Nazis, survived the Warsaw Uprising and worked earlier at Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America Polish Service was slowly transforming itself into an uncensored voice of freedom from Washington. This change took decades to complete and required VOA Polish Service to protest from time to time against the upper management’s attempts to censor the truth about the Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD secret police and to resist occasional management directives to downplay human rights reporting. The Voice of America eventually became during President Ronald Reagan’s administration nearly as popular in communist-ruled Poland as the Polish Service of Radio Free Europe, which remained the most listened to and the most influential Western radio station broadcasting in Polish.

In 1982, Irene Broni was one of the Polish Service’s recipients of the Superior Honor Award “For exceptional service, professionalism, and devotion to duty in the preparation of Voice of America broadcasts to the people of Poland” during the martial which was imposed on December 13, 1981 by General Wojciech Jaruzelski and his pro-Soviet communist regime against the Solidarity labor union movement lead by Lech Wałęsa, future Nobel Peace Prize winner and future President of independent Poland. The award ceremony coincided with the visit to the Voice of America by President Ronald Reagan on February 24, 1982 to mark the 40th anniversary of VOA’s founding in 1942. A Superior Honor Award was also given in 1982 to VOA English News Vienna correspondent David Lent for “covering the events in Poland in 1981, culminating in the imposition of martial law in December.”

Irene Broni later received two VOA Excellence in Programming Awards for her popular Saturday radio show about life in the United States, Ameryka w Przekroju, and her special report from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on the Polish-American observances of the Warsaw Uprising’s 45th anniversary. During that time, VOA broadcasters like Irene Broni who reported on all aspects of life in America adhered strictly to the VOA Charter. They produced programs that were informative, in her case also highly entertaining, and presenting a variety of different opinions on controversial issues. Partisanship in reporting on American politics was meticulously avoided by most foreign language service VOA broadcasters.

With their rich life and professional experience, these Central European journalists also could not be fooled by Soviet propaganda. When faced with inaccuracies in some VOA English reports on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, they were not afraid to make their views known to VOA and United States Information Agency (USIA) officials. The majority of the upper agency management was strongly supportive of VOA’s Polish Service, especially during the Solidarity’s struggle for democracy. Many USIA and VOA managers during the time Irene Broni worked in the Polish Service had spent years abroad as diplomats or journalists, spoke foreign languages and were not permitted along with their immediate family members to do private business in countries ruled by oppressive regimes. Hiring personal acquittances was also not as easy as it has become in later years.

Irene Broni was able to use her outstanding broadcasting talents. History was one of her passions. In 1985 she interviewed several current and former VOA Polish Service journalists who, like her, had led incredibly eventful lives in one of the most difficult periods of the 20th century. Former VOA Polish Service deputy director Zdzisław Dziekoński participated in the Warsaw Uprising for which he was recognized by President Reagan in a White House ceremony. Irene Broni also interviewed anti-Nazi resistance hero Zofia Korbońska who risked her life daily to send coded radio messages from Nazi-occupied Poland to a Polish radio station in Britain. Irene interviewed another Polish Service broadcaster Ryszard Mossin, one of hundreds of thousands of Polish prisoners in Stalin’s Siberian camps who was later a radio reporter with General Anders’ Polish Army in Iraq and Italy, worked for the BBC and Radio Free Europe and ended up with VOA. She also recorded a radio interview with her former husband Feliks Broniecki who was a Polish soldier in the West during World War II, worked at the BBC and Radio Free Europe, and later joined the Voice of America, where he retired as Polish Service director in 1982. Another one of Irene’s interviewees was a pre-World War II Polish journalist Tadeusz Strzetelski. My outstanding deputy Marek Walicki, a Warsaw Uprising survivor and former Radio Free Europe correspondent, recognized and encouraged Irene Broni’s radio hosting and interviewing talents. She was a dynamic radio personality who easily connected with her audience and listeners of various ages. She corresponded by letter with many of them in Poland and even invited one to stay at her home on a visit to the United States. She was a friendly and generous person.

Marek Walicki’s photo (above) from KARTA website shows Irene Broni first on the left in a red and black dress. 1990, Waszyngton, USA. Nowy Rok w redakcji Sekcji Polskiej Głosu Ameryki. [1990, Washington, DC, Voice of America Polish Service New Year party.] Irena Radwańska, Helena Skotowska, Jerzy Rudzki, Marek Krzyżański-Parker, Tadeusz Walendowski, Marek Święcicki (trzeci z prawej) [third from the right], Wojciech Żórniak (z ręką w górze) [with his arm raised], Waldemar Chlebowski (drugi z prawej) [second from the right], Manuela Pinto Da Silva, originally from Portugal, who worked as a producer in the Polish Service. Fot. Marek Walicki, kolekcja Marka Walickiego, zbiory Ośrodka KARTA. Link. 

After her retirement from VOA in 1996, Irene Broni was active in various Polish-American organizations in the Washington, DC area, published a community newsletter, and helped to stage several plays by Polish writers in local theaters and a Polish opera at the Kennedy Center. In 2003, she helped to organize a campaign to send Christmas packages to soldiers from Poland serving in Iraq alongside American troops.

In commenting on the role of the Voice of America during the time when Irene Broni Radwańska was a Radio Free Europe and later Voice of America broadcaster, Lech Wałęsa said in 2002: “It is difficult to imagine what would have happened if it were not for the Voice of America and other sources with the help of which the true information squeezed through, which showed us a different point of view, which said that we are not alone, and that something is happening in our country — because our mass media did not do that.” – Lech Wałęsa, 2002

Link to Lech Wałęsa video interview: Part One and Part Two.

To this day some of the current and former Voice of America officials continue to ignore the most outstanding anti-communist VOA foreign language broadcasters while still praising pro-Soviet sympathizers such as John Houseman who had turned the early VOA into a propaganda mouthpiece for Stalin and tried to help Soviet Russia establish communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

Irene Broni Radwańska was a proud Pole, a proud American and a great Radio Free Europe and Voice of America broadcaster in the noble fight against totalitarian ideologies and their propaganda.

Some of the biographical information about Irene Broni (Irena Radwańska) came from the manuscript on the history of the Voice of America Polish Service written in Poland by Jarosław Jędrzejczak, a former longtime listener to VOA Polish broadcasts.

The photo of the VOA Polish Service staffers showing Marek Walicki, Roma Starczewska Murray, Krystyna Wojtasik, Mirek Kondracki and Jarosław Anders was originally published in the Voice of America promotional calendar for 1990. The image to the left shows a cover of the VOA Polish Service brochure from the early 1990s.

Ted Lipien is a former director of VOA Polish Service and former VOA acting associate director.

SUPPORT THE WORK OF COLD WAR RADIO MUSEUM

IF YOU APPRECIATE SEEING THESE ARTICLES AND COLD WAR RADIO MEMORABILIA

ANY CONTRIBUTION HELPS US IN BUYING, PRESERVING AND DISPLAYING THESE HISTORICAL EXHIBIT ITEMS

CONTRIBUTE AS LITTLE AS $1, $5, $10, OR ANY AMOUNT

CLICK TO DONATE NOW

Notes:

  1. Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Hugh White, Esq., May 2, 1801. Irene Broni misspoke saying that Jefferson wrote these words 55 years after the Declaration of Independence; it was 25 years.
  2. Czesław Straszewicz, “O Świcie,” Kultura, October, 1953, 61-62. I am indebted to Polish historian of the Voice of America’s Polish Service Jarosław Jędrzejczak for finding this reference to VOA’s wartime role.
W.

WWII Voice of America aired Stalin propaganda to cover up his role in Katyn massacre

WWII Voice of America aired Stalin propaganda to cover up his role in Katyn massacre

From deliberate pro-Stalin WWII propaganda to careless “pro-Puntin bias” — Avoiding propaganda pitfalls at Voice of America

By Ted Lipien

Official documents declassified and released by the National Archives since 2012 show that during World War II and for years afterwards, the U.S. Government-run Voice of America external radio station broadcast Soviet propaganda and disinformation to Poland and to other countries throughout the world with the intention of covering up Stalin’s crimes. This was done primarily in the interest of supporting immediate U.S. military and foreign policy wartime goals set by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and other high-ranking U.S. officials. It was a far cry from the promise enunciated in what was later presented as VOA’s first broadcast on February 25, 1942 or about that time. The Voice of America did not adopt its full official name until a few years later but it was the same broadcasting organization, first within the Office of War Information (OWI) and after 1945 within the U.S. State Department (VOA staff was reduced in 1945, but many former OWI broadcasters continued to be employed by the State Department. Sometime in early 1942, a broadcaster announced in the first German U.S. shortwave radio broadcast to Germany: “The news may be good. The news may be bad. But we shall tell you the truth.”

WWII diplomatic dispatches and other accounts prove beyond any doubt that following the wishes of the Roosevelt White House, its own parent agency, the Office of War Information–but largely on their own initiative and through the work of some of its staffers who later joined communist regimes in Eastern Europe–the Voice of America, although it was not yet its official name at the time, was guilty of hiding, censoring, distorting and minimizing news about Stalin’s order to kill Polish military officers and other POWs, estimated to number over 20,000, in in what became known as the 1940 Katyń Forest Massacre near Smolensk and at other locations in the Soviet Union.

Read more

L.

Lech Walesa 70th Birthday Stamp – Historic VOA Interviews – 1985 – 1987 – 2002

“It is difficult to imagine what would have happened if it were not for the Voice of America and other sources with the help of which the true information squeezed through, which showed a different point of view, which said that we are not alone and that something is happening in the country — because our mass media did not do that.” – Lech Wałęsa, 2002

Poland’s Post Office will issue a stamp in honor of Solidarity (Solidarność) trade union leader Lech Wałęsa. The stamp will be released Sunday, September 29, 2013, on the Nobel Peace laureate’s and Poland’s former President’s 70th birthday.

The commemorative envelope, also issued by Poland’s Post Office, includes a reference to American support for Lech Wałęsa in a photo showing him speaking to the joint session of the  U.S. Congress. The envelope also has a photo of Lech Wałęsa’s wife, Danuta, receiving his Nobel Peace Prize on his behalf.

October 5, 2013 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Nobel Committee announcement that the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to Lech Wałęsa — a news event covered extensively by the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service, Radio Free Europe and other Polish-language Western media.

Lech Wałęsa’s and Poland’s struggle for democracy received strong support from the United States government and American people. Both Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America, funded by U.S. taxpayers, reported daily on the 1980 strikes, the martial law, and subsequent negotiations between Solidarity and the regime which led to the peaceful fall of communism in Poland.

In a 2002 interview with the Voice of America Warsaw correspondent Maria Bnińska, Lech Wałęsa said:

Link to video.

Lech Wałęsa: “Of course, what I’m about to say is well known.

It is hard to imagine – when the communist system was still in existence, when we had been betrayed but did not give up the fight — if there were would have been no other media that could encourage, may be not encourage, but to show, to provide the proof, to speak the truth, to speak about what was happening here and elsewhere — something we could not see for ourselves, being cut off from the real information, and fighting within our limited capabilities.

Therefore, it is difficult to imagine what would have happened if it were not for the Voice of America and other sources with the help of which the true information squeezed through, which showed a different point of view, which said that we are not alone and that something is happening in the country — because our mass media did not do that.

Therefore, I will say it briefly — we would not have what we have without the segment of propaganda, which was found in the Voice of America. It is not conceivable that it would have happened so quickly and so effectively if not for the Voice of America.

Even as a child I remember how my parents surreptitiously listened to the free word of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and others.

I also listened. I listened when they were listening.

And because of that, opposition was awaken, and the information and the real image of what was taking place here and in the free world.

And so, the great glory to the Voice of America and other media that had enabled us to survive, [gave us] the real information, [ability] to compare information, and so on, and so forth.”

Lech Wałęsa: “Oczywiście, ja, to co powiem, to jest ogólnie znane.

Trudno sobie wyobrazić — kiedy u nas obowiązywał system komunistyczny, kiedy zostaliśmy zdradzeni i kiedy nie zaniechaliśmy walki — żeby nie było innych ośrodków, które by zachęcały, może nie zachęcały ale pokazywały, udowadniały, mówiły prawdę, mówiły o tym co się dzieje tu i gdzie indziej — czego my sprawdzić nie mogliśmy będąc odcięci od prawdziwej informacji, walcząc w ograniczonych możliwościach.

Dlatego trudno sobie wyobrazić co by było gdyby nie było Głosu Ameryki i innych jeszcze źródeł przez które przeciskała się informacja prawdziwa, która pokazywała inny punkt widzenia, która mówiła o tym, że nie jesteśmy sami i że coś się w kraju dzieje, bo nasze publikatory tego nie robiły.

W związku z tym powiem krótko, nie byłoby tego co mamy bez tego wycinku propagandowego, który mieścił się w Głosie Ameryki. Nie wyobrażalne jest by mogło to mieć miejsce tak szybko i tak skutecznie gdyby nie Głos Ameryki.

Już jako dziecko pamiętam jak moi rodzice, ukrywając się, słuchali wolego słowa Głosu Ameryki i Wolnej Europy i innych. Ja też słuchałem, słuchałem kiedy oni słuchali.

I w związku z tym, budził się sprzeciw, i informacja i prawdziwy obraz, który ma miejsce tu i w wolnym świecie.

I dlatego wielka chwała Głosowi Ameryki i innym środkom, które pozwoliły nam na przetrwanie, na prawdziwe informacje, na porównywanie informacji, i tak dalej, i tak dalej.”

Link to video.

Maria Bnińska: What does the 50th anniversary of the Voice of America mean for you?

Lech Wałęsa: I think, it is the present victory; its role in this victory.

At the same time, it is contribution to general knowledge, my own and for generations that lived through this period.

Many did not see the effects of their work.

We must remember many, in history and in everything else; they have made a great contribution.

This is, I think, for today the great contribution of the Voice of America.

Maria Bnińska: Co dla pana oznacza i czym jest dla pana piędziesięciolecie (2002) Głosu Ameryki?

Lech Wałęsa: No myslę, że obecnym zwycięstwem, udziale w tym zwycięstwie.

Jednocześnie jest to uzupełnieniem wiedzy ogólnej, tak moim jak i pokoleń, które w tym okresie przewinęły się.

Wielu nie doczekało efektów swojej pracy.

O wielu musimy pamiętać, i w historii i w tym wszystkim, że mają wielki wkład.

To tym, myslę, tylko i wyłącznie na dzisiaj jest ta wielka zasługa jaką jest Głos Ameryki.

In 1987, the faltering government of General Jaruzelski agreed to a visit by Vice President George H.W. Bush who urged Jaruzelski to come to terms with Wałęsa. Subsequent negotiations between the regime and Solidarity-led democratic opposition led to a peaceful transition to democracy in Poland.

The Voice of America Polish Service director Ted Lipien covered Bush’s 1987 trip and reported on these statements from Wałęsa and the U.S. Vice President after their dinner on September 27, 1987 at the residence of the American Charge d’Affairs in Warsaw John R. Davis, Jr. who later became U.S. Ambassador to Poland.

From a VOA Polish Service 1987 report from Warsaw:

Link to audio.

“Ja dziękuję bardzo za te słowa, które przyjmuję jako pochwałę Solidarności. Rzeczywiście postawiliśmy na pokojową walkę. … Dziękujemy bardzo ekipie Stanów Zjednoczonych za zrozumienie polskich spraw, Mamy nadzieje, że w tej reformie będzie tak jak dotąd pomocna naszemu krajowi.” – Lech Wałesa, Warsaw, September 27, 1987.

“The American people have great affection and, as you know from recent action, support you, support Solidarity and support the objectives that you’ve outlined here this evening. And to the people of Poland. we’ve had a marvelous visit” – Vice President George H.W. Bush, Warsaw, September 27, 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.

Link to audio.

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

In his 1987 interview with in Gdansk, where Ted Lipien had gone by train from Warsaw avoiding police surveillance, Wałęsa did not attach much importance to the just concluded referendum, which — as he pointed out — had not been not organized according to basic democratic principles. For one thing, as he pointed out, Solidarity and other oppositions groups in Poland had not been consulted and had no access to domestic media prior to the vote.

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

At the same time, he strongly objected to the regime’s reluctance to enter into a real dialogue with the democratic opposition in Poland. 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 two months 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 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.

The VOA Polish Service was one of the first Western media outlets to interview Walesa by phone after he was released from detention by the Polish martial law regime. The first VOA phone interview with Walesa was done by Peter (Piotr) Mroczyk in August 1985.

Link to audio.

Lech Walesa: “The ideals which we presented and which we pursue are truly great.

We could not achieve them even if our organization had prospered. Therefore, there is much in front of us. We must still do much. …

This is very difficult because programs that have been proven successful elsewhere can’t be implemented where we are geographically located. This is our difficulty, because we must be mindful of the restrictions and remember that we can’t do everything.”

Peter Mroczyk (1947-2007), who recorded the interview, later became the last director of the Polish Service of Radio Free Europe (1989-1994).

The last Voice of America Polish Service on-air radio program to Poland was heard on July 20, 2000 after almost 58 years from the first VOA Polish radio broadcast in 1942. Internet and feed service to radio and TV affiliates in Poland continued until May 2004.

lech-walesa-znaczek-i-koperta

Z.

Zbigniew Brzezinski o Jałcie – About Yalta, 1985

In an article for the Winter 1984/1985 issue of Foreign Affairs, “A Divided Europe: The Future of Yalta,” Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote that “Yalta is unfinished business. Forty years after the fateful Crimean meeting of February 4-11, 1945, between the Allied Big Three of World War II, much of our current (1984/1985) preoccupation with Yalta focuses on its myth rather than on its continuing historical significance.”

Dr. Brzezinski made the following comments (in English) about Yalta to the Voice of America (VOA) in February 1985:

Dr. Brzezinski: Yalta was also the last opportunity for the West, and notably for the United States, to have done something significant to avert the division of Europe.

After all, the Anglo-American democracies were infinitely more powerful than the Soviet Union.

And, instead of trying to shape a more constructive European system close to the end of the war, while at Yalta, the Western leaders in effect caved in.

And, while they did not give away Eastern Europe to the Soviets — the Soviets already had it, and it had been given away at Teheran — they failed to use the opportunity to try to shape an arrangement for Europe, which would have averted what subsequently evolved, namely: the partition of Europe.

Yalta has thus become the symbol of that partition.

I think they could have pressed Stalin to accept arrangements in Central Europe which would have been more palatable and which would have probably also helped to avoid not only the subsequent division of Europe but also the American-Soviet Cold War in Europe.

Their naivete seems to have dominated their thinking.

Certainly, the arrangements for democracy in Eastern Europe were left for Stalin to execute. And, one should have had some idea how Stalin interprets democracy, on the basis of Soviet experience.

Link to audio in Polish.

Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service director Ted Lipien interviewed Dr. Brzezinski about his article and his proposed solutions to ending the division of Europe. Brzezinski stated that Western leaders had not agreed at Yalta to the division of Europe, but at the same time they were naive and did not press Stalin to insure that free elections would in fact be carried out in Poland and in other countries of Central and Eastern Europe under Soviet military domination.

This is the part of the interview (in Polish) dealing with Yalta. In the rest of the interview, Dr. Brzezinski stressed that the return of Central and Eastern Europe to the rest of Europe needs to be a largely European process with strong encouragement from the United States.

Ted Lipien: W opublikowanym przez pana niedawno artykule poświęconym konferencji jałtańskiej i jej następstwom, zauważa pan, ze wbrew powszechnie rozpowszechnionej opinii, Zachód nie zgodził się w Jałcie na podział Europy. Dlaczego więc Jałta stala się tym symbolem zdobycia przez Rosję dominacji nad Europą Wschodnią?

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Dlatego, ze jednym z następstw Jałty był istotnie podział Europy, oraz w Jalcie, Zachód, a w szczegolnosci Amerykanie i Anglosasi, nie wykorzystali możliwosci by wywrzec nacisk na Stalina i na Sowietów w kierunku ustanowienia czegoś we Wschodniej Europie i Centralnej Europie co by bardziej odpowiadało aspiracjom ludów zamieszkujących ten region Europy.

Ted Lipien: Czy fakt, ze Armia Czerwona zajęła większość obszarów Europy Wschodniej nie przesądził właściwie o przyszłości politycznej tej części świata.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Niekoniecznie. Dlatego, że jednocześnie Związek Sowiecki był wyczerpany wojną, i bardziej skoncentrowany i politycznie inteligentny nacisk ze strony Zachodu skierowany na osiągnięcie pewnych konkretnych celów — nie przesadnych ale konkretnych — sądzę mógł byłby mieć pozytywny rezultat.

W każdym razie wiemy tylko to, że tego nacisku nie było, tego rodzaju prób nie było.

W Jałcie była deklaracja o demokracji w Europie Wschodniej, ale wykonanie tej deklaracji pozostawiono całkowicie w rękach Stalina.

Wiedząc jak Stalin interpretuje demokrację, można było z góry przewidzieć jaki będzie rezultat tego rodzaju rozwiązania.

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.

L.

Lech Walesa on Importance of Voice of America in Poland’s Struggle for Freedom and Democracy

“Nie wyobrażalne jest by mogło to mieć miejsce tak szybko i tak skutecznie gdyby nie Głos Ameryki.” — Lech Wałęsa, 2002.

“It is not conceivable that it would have happened so quickly and so effectively if not for the Voice of America.” — Lech Wałęsa, 2002.

October 5, 2013 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Nobel Committee announcement that the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to Lech Wałęsa — a news event covered extensively by the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service, Radio Free Europe and other Polish-language Western media.

June 4 and June 18, 2014 will mark the 25th anniversary of the first post-World War II partly-free Polish parliamentary elections, which resulted in the resounding victory of the Solidarity opposition and paved the way to the fall of Communism in Poland.

Link to audio.

In an interview with Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service reporter Maria Bnińska, Polish Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa spoke in 2002 about the importance of VOA – Głos Ameryki – to the people in Poland during the Cold War when the country was under communist rule and local media were controlled and censored by the Communist Party.

Link to video.

Lech Wałęsa: “Oczywiście, ja, to co powiem, to jest ogólnie znane.

Trudno sobie wyobrazić — kiedy u nas obowiązywał system komunistyczny, kiedy zostaliśmy zdradzeni i kiedy nie zaniechaliśmy walki — żeby nie było innych ośrodków, które by zachęcały, może nie zachęcały ale pokazywały, udowadniały, mówiły prawdę, mówiły o tym co się dzieje tu i gdzie indziej — czego my sprawdzić nie mogliśmy będąc odcięci od prawdziwej informacji, walcząc w ograniczonych możliwościach.

Dlatego trudno sobie wyobrazić co by było gdyby nie było Głosu Ameryki i innych jeszcze źródeł przez które przeciskała się informacja prawdziwa, która pokazywała inny punkt widzenia, która mówiła o tym, że nie jesteśmy sami i że coś się w kraju dzieje, bo nasze publikatory tego nie robiły.

W związku z tym powiem krótko, nie byłoby tego co mamy bez tego wycinku propagandowego, który mieścił się w Głosie Ameryki. Nie wyobrażalne jest by mogło to mieć miejsce tak szybko i tak skutecznie gdyby nie Głos Ameryki.

Już jako dziecko pamiętam jak moi rodzice, ukrywając się, słuchali wolego słowa Głosu Ameryki i Wolnej Europy i innych. Ja też słuchałem, słuchałem kiedy oni słuchali.

I w związku z tym, budził się sprzeciw, i informacja i prawdziwy obraz, który ma miejsce tu i w wolnym świecie.

I dlatego wielka chwała Głosowi Ameryki i innym środkom, które pozwoliły nam na przetrwanie, na prawdziwe informacje, na porównywanie informacji, i tak dalej, i tak dalej.”

Lech Wałęsa:“Of course, what I’m about to say is well known.

It is hard to imagine – when the communist system was still in existence, when we had been betrayed but did not give up the fight — if there were would have been no other media that could encourage, may be not encourage, but to show, to provide the proof, to speak the truth, to speak about what was happening here and elsewhere — something we could not see for ourselves, being cut off from the real information, and fighting within our limited capabilities.

Therefore, it is difficult to imagine what would have happened if it were not for the Voice of America and other sources with the help of which the true information squeezed through, which showed a different point of view, which said that we are not alone and that something is happening in the country — because our mass media did not do that.

Therefore, I will say it briefly — we would not have what we have without the segment of propaganda, which was found in the Voice of America. It is not conceivable that it would have happened so quickly and so effectively if not for the Voice of America.

Even as a child I remember how my parents surreptitiously listened to the free word of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and others.

I also listened. I listened when they were listening.

And because of that, opposition was awaken, and the information and the real image of what was taking place here and in the free world.

And so, the great glory to the Voice of America and other media that had enabled us to survive, [gave us] the real information, [ability] to compare information, and so on, and so forth.”

Link to video.

Maria Bnińska: What does the 50th anniversary of the Voice of America mean for you?

Lech Wałęsa: I think, it is the present victory; its role in this victory.

At the same time, it is contribution to general knowledge, my own and for generations that lived through this period.

Many did not see the effects of their work.

We must remember many, in history and in everything else; they have made a great contribution.

This is, I think, for today the great contribution of the Voice of America.

Maria Bnińska: Co dla pana oznacza i czym jest dla pana piędziesięciolecie (2002) Głosu Ameryki?

Lech Wałęsa: No myslę, że obecnym zwycięstwem, udziale w tym zwycięstwie.

Jednocześnie jest to uzupełnieniem wiedzy ogólnej, tak moim jak i pokoleń, które w tym okresie przewinęły się.

Wielu nie doczekało efektów swojej pracy.

O wielu musimy pamiętać, i w historii i w tym wszystkim, że mają wielki wkład.

To tym, myslę, tylko i wyłącznie na dzisiaj jest ta wielka zasługa jaką jest Głos Ameryki.

Z.

Zbigniew Brzezinski Interviewed for 1989 Worldnet Program on Historic Changes in Poland

In a March 1989 Voice of America-Worldnet-Polish Television program moderated by Ted Lipien, then director of the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski discussed historic political changes, which were taking place at that time in Poland and throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Dr. Brzezinski was being interviewed by journalists in Poland which was still under communist rule but nearing its transition to democracy.

Polish Television broadcast the program, as did the VOA Polish Service in a radio broadcast.

Link to video.

Dr. Brzezinski said that he disagreed with the theory of convergence, promoted by some in the United States and in Western Europe, which claimed that communism and capitalism would eventually each change and merge. Dr. Brzezinski said that communism was a failed system on its way out and talked about conditions for the eventual reunification of democratic Europe.

Voice of America-Worldnet-Polish TV
with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
March 15, 1989

Ted Lipien: Important changes took place in recent years in Poland and in Eastern Europe.

Reforms taking place are transforming basic political and economic structures.

Some believe long-term changes may result in relations between the Warsaw Pact and other nations outside of it.

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski will discuss today these historic changes.

Between 1977 and 1981, he was President Carter’s National Security Advisor.

He is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Voice of Krzysztof Wojna, Polish Radio: You are one of the authors of the very controversial Convergence Theory.

Many political experts believe that the theory is not yet fully formulated.

Do you share this view. If so, how would you expand this theory?

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski: Allow me to explain to the radio and TV audience what this theory is about.

Its basic premise is that in time communist systems and capitalist systems, or should we say from our point of view, democratic, will converge, and there will be some kind of basic coming together.

I never favored this theory. I was rather its critic.

In my opinion, this criticism is still valid.

In my view, what is happening right now in the Communist Block is the death of the Communist doctrine, and in effect the fall of Communist systems.

In some cases, this fall may be evolutionary.

There will be a transition to pluralistic-democratic systems.

Perhaps with some elements of Social-Democracy in the transition period.

But in some cases, in countries other than Poland and Hungary, the fall of communist systems may have elements of deeper political upheavals. (Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, March 15, 1989)

Link to audio.