AROUND POLAND IN OUR AND OTHERS’ EYES
A great book of Andrzej Nowak ‘Intellectual history of the Third Polish Republic’, in my opinion, has its title chosen in an unfortunate way – I included my suggestion in the title of the text. If it is intellectual history, it is of the very author of these interviews carried out in the years 1990-2012. 22 years, in which one can see how 30-year-old (1990) doctor becomes one of the most prominent Polish historians, an expert of Russia and many international issues. And, naturally, an expert of history of Poland to which he devoted so many books, about which he speaks during many social meetings. ‘An intellectual history…’ is 46 volumes with many people of Polish and international life, with particular consideration of the Russians and the Americans. In the year 1990 it is seen that the young scientist is a partner for his interlocutors of high titles. For, these are not lectures, but interviews in which both the interviewer and the interviewee have creative roles.
The book consists of a few theme blocks: 1. ‘Between the East and the West’ (interviews with: Josif Brodski, Natalia Gorbaniewska, Władimir Bukowski, Richard Pipes, Jurij Kaszlew, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Michael Novak, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhortez, Roger Scruton); 2. ‘From the perspective of history’ (with: Piotr Wandycz, Piotr Łossowski, Andrzej Sulima Kamiński, Roman Szporluk, Tomasz Łubieński); 3. ‘For God’s and Human reasons’ (with: archbishop Józef Życiński, archbishop Józef Michalik, Fr. Jacek Salij, cardinal Stanisław Nagy); 4. ‘With Poland in the centre’ (a few interviews with Jarosław and Lech Kaczyński); 5. ‘Politics from aside and from the centre’ (with: Ryszard Legutka, Jan Olszewski, Jadwiga Staniszkis, Antoni Macierewicz, Jan Rokita, Bronisław Wildstein, Aleksander Smolar); 6. ‘Fates and testimonies’ (with: Anna Walentynowicz, Irena Lasota, Jan Prokop, Leszek Długosz, Wiesław Chrzanowski). The volume is finished with an interview with Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz.
The book has about 700 pages and it is not definitely a book for everybody. It is valuable for students of history and political science, it will be available for an ordinary reader only in fragments – the level of the discourse like in an interview with the neo-conservative Podhortez is undoubtedly difficult even for an academic humanist, not to say about an average engineer. It seems that it would be more fortunate to divide this enormous material into two volumes – the first one – from the parts 1 and 3, presenting a picture of the political reality in the eyes of ‘others’ and people of the Church, and the latter one, comprising easily understandable parts.
I do not feel strong enough to undertake the issue of the American neo-conservatism, nor meanders of American politics. But surely, the words of the prominent experts of the sovietologist Richard Pipes will remain in memory, about historical determinism, excluding transformation of systems without any democratic tradition into systems of this kind of character or prophetic predictions of the Noble- prize winner Josif Brodski about the future addiction of Europe free of communism, from the German capital (year 1990!).
I am writing these words on the Day of Independence when ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ proves with the pen of Jan Sowa that……invaders modernized our Poland! Surely like Tusk and his team. And the presidential confidant (a member of the Polish United Workers’ Party till 1990) Tomasz Nałęcz is trying to diminish merits of Piłsudski for independence of our country. And in this light the book of Andrzej Nowak takes on significance, showing where real sources of Polishness and patriotism are.(Why, understanding intentions of the author, I would resign from immortalizing thoughts of Tomasz Łubieński or global option of policy of Aleksander Smolar and irresponsible opinions about Poles, made up by Jan T. Gross).
As it has already been said, it is not a book for everybody, but everyone can find something for themselves in it. For example, an evolution of attitudes can be interesting. The late archbishop Józef Życiński in an interview from 1993 was somebody completely different than we knew him from later years: a fervent defender of the teaching of John Paul II, a critic of liberalism in culture. The late president Lech Kaczyński in 3 interviews: from the year 2000, 2006, 2009 (he did not manage to authorize the last one before his death) was a man presented in full development of his possibilities: in 2000, on the day before his reentering politics – rationally analyzing the actions of the PC and Lech Wałęsa, in 2006 – as a president aware of mistakes done by the Law and Justice party (instead of accentuating achievements of this party, an excessive pressure on corruption), in 2009 – as a politician aware of his duties in this part of Europe, as a man who was worried about the role and place of Poland in the world, being aware of the hostile environment in which he was working. Or prof. Ryszard Legutko, moving from the attitude of an independent cleric to the role of an active politician who wants to be effective.
The analysis of the phenomenon of Polishness and patriotism are the most important for me in this book. For example, there is an unusual common feature between the late cardinal Stanisław Nagy and Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz. The cardinal emphasizes that what formed the personality of John Paul II to much extent was the tradition of Romantism, Słowacki (and also the cult of Piłsudski); Rymkiewicz in a passionate interview, as a source of Poles’ identity, ending the book, recalls a quotation from ‘Beniowski’ about Poland as the sister of Crucified Jesus.
Despite what the leftist media are trying to persuade us to accept, Polishness appears as an attitude which is open to the world, which is curious about the world and friendly to people. Without any hatred or anger ‘Anna Solidarność’ is peacefully reporting her perturbations with Wałęsa, also revealing her steadfast attitude towards meanders and games behind the scenes of his policy during August ’80 and aftermath. He does not forget about any merits of people, among the others, of Alina Pieńkowska and their real roles in August in Gdańsk.
Two talks contrasting with each other – with prof. Jan Prokop and Leszek Długosz – are two different examples for how open Polishness can appear. Długosz from a small town near Lublin (‘I am an European man from Zaklików) is not ashamed of his birthplace, like most today’s celebrities. Born, as to say, out of the spirit of music and poetry, formed by the Polish home and an unusual person of his master – a poet Nagórska, shows how it was possible to find one’s independence even in communism, not give oneself in the notorious ‘bite’. The Polishness openness of Prokop, independence of his thought and attitude is sensitive to the so-called flashy presenting one’s opinions (somehow reluctant to both the National Democratic and cult of the Marshal Piłsudski). Sometimes Prokop excessively, and even irritably coquets via his rusofilia (a Soviet officer in the year 1945 used to read books of Lermontow with his father!; whatever different picture of Soviet officers was presented by a Lvov contemporary man of Prokop Adam Macedoński). His attitude is, in fact, a model picture of a cleric, and also a Catholic man for whom openness to others is the basic measure of a Christian man.
There appears my question about this part of the book: is it possible to overcome deep differences which divide Poland of a chocolate eagle from white and red Poland today? Jarosław Rynkiewicz answers this question with holy anger, quoting an indecent chorus of the ‘First Brigade’, Poles cutting themselves off their identity, do not worry or interest him allegedly. But the dramatic questions are addressed to them, which are current in 2012, and also in November 2013, quoted by the poet from ’Beniowski’: ‘The most important question is as follows: can Poland be ‘’great and scary’’ yet, can it hit with its spirit ‘’all Slavic tribes’, can it force what is dying in our eyes – Europe – to resurrect, ‘’it awakens life in people with a thunder’’? And what do you think about it, Poles? Are you ready to ‘hit with your spirit’’? Are you strong enough? or will you lie down in a coffin and will die together with Europe? It is up to you’.
Let’s think how these words of the poet are related to the message of the teaching of John Paul II, addressed to us for so many years. And let’s reflect on not our littleness so much, as on how to come out of it.