‘NIEDZIELA’: - On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of regaining independence by Poland, we reminiscence the year 1918 and prominent Fathers of Independence. Who of them is an inspiration for President?

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND ANDRZEJ DUDA: We agree to the fact that we include six great politicians in the group of Fathers of Independence. First of all, the marshal Józef Piłsudski, Roman Dmowski, Ignacy J. Paderewski, Wincenty Witos, Ignacy Daszyński and Wojciech Korfanty. As the president I want to treat them equally because they contributed a lot in the process of regaining independence and in the process of maintaining it. After all, we must remember, for example, about great merits of Wincenty Witos in 1920, when he stood at the helm of the government when Poland was fighting for survival in the war with the Bolsheviks. Personally, I admit that I was brought up in a specific cult to Józef Piłsudski, as I was a boy-scout in a scouting team named the Legionaries 1914. However, I found out soon that the Second Republic of Poland was not a monolith and not everyone loved Piłsudski.

Who did not agree with Piłsudski?

I remember reaction of my grandpa’s brother, also a highlander. When I was glorifying Piłsudski in his presence, he was getting very angry. At that time I realized that my grandpa’s brother had been brought up in the trend of a people’s movement of Witos, and Piłsudski was a symbol of an anti-hero for him. I want to remind that those acute divisions in the Second Republic of Poland appeared later when there were disputes about politics. Whereas at the time of regaining independence, in 1918, they were working together. Therefore, I am trying to show all great politicians of that time who had various opinions, but what was common for them were Poland and the issue of its independence.

At the time of the Second Republic of Poland, we have one giant national-military success in 1920, that is, the Miracle at the Vistula, and also a political tragedy of the May coup in 1926. Can we compare this division to the current situation in Poland?

It seems to me that it cannot be compared, as it was a completely different situation, different ideological and political trends. The world was incomparably more brutal than the one in which we live. At that time political violence and assassinations were one of political tools. After all, there were shootings at protesters and politicians were murdered, and in Europe authoritarianism was growing and totalitarianisms were appearing. On the one hand we had soviet totalitarianism, but on the other hand – fascism was growing in Italy, and cruel nasizm in Germany. Poland was not a lonely island and these political-ideological trends were coming to our country. I will remind that we also experienced political assassinations in which president Gabriel Narutowicz and minister Bronisław Pieracki were killed. Whereas today we are at the level of discussions and verbal conflicts. Sometimes somebody will insult somebody else, but despite that, the temperature o f the political dispute cannot be compared.

And what about the society after the May coup?

Certainly, we must remember that it was a serious division then. Our political system of the 20s of the 20th century was very unstable, and after the May coup Poland became an authoritarian country. A lot of prominent and merited politicians, among the others, Wincenty Witos, were hurt. The situation after the year 1933 began to improve a bit but it is still difficult to speak about this period positively. It is sad that only after the danger of the war made the society unite. Some people say that this is characteristic for Poles that they can work together only when they are experiencing a tragedy.

At the beginning the Second Republic of Poland was in a much more difficult situation than Poland after 1989. And at that time we had great economic successes…

We should say it openly, that in the Second Republic of Poland we also had serious problems. It was not true that after 1918 everything was developing beautiful and quickly, as our country was ruined. Nearly 2.5 thousand bridges were destroyed. Nearly the whole industry was in rumbles. A real development appeared not earlier than in the 30s of the last century. The shipyard in Gdynia was being built, the concept of the Central Industrial District was appearing, Air Valley was being developed which we are trying to reconstruct today. The dynamic development of the Second Republic of Poland gave us lots of hope for the future. And it is a pity that this period was brutally disrupted again.

What does the Third Republic of Poland look like at the background of the economic successes of the Second Republic of Poland?

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the 90s of the last century were the time when lots of mistakes and neglects were made. At that time plants collapsed or even whole branches were either sold for nothing or people were losing their jobs, unemployment in the scale of the country was a few dozen percent and, as a result, there appeared social problems. Luckily, we got out of that collapse and now Poland is developing dynamically; we have a high growth of the national gross product, on the level of about percent. It is necessary to take advantage of this chance in order to catch up with the rest of Europe and provide Poles with a better standard of life. After the years of unemployment, stresses and family tragedies, now there is time for different, better Poland.

In the interview about independence it is also necessary to remind about the role of the Church in uniting the nation torn by the invaders, by the Nazis and later attacked by the communists. Are the contemporary attacks on the Church also a hostile action against Poland?

I believe that the attacks on the Church are not accidental. After all, when we reach back to the times of partitions, when our country was being torn, the Church was the only net institution. Polishness has survived mainly thanks to the strong family and the Church, which stood on the guard of unchangeable values. I hope that nobody will ever dare to take away this great merit which is simply a historic fact. The Church has always stood by the nation at the times of partitions, during the war occupation and also at the times of communism. We must remember that the primate of Poland – cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was imprisoned, and archbishop Antoni Baraniak showed his unusual heroism. Our oppressors always wanted to stifle the Church as it was the only strong institution defending the rights and dignity of the Nation. Our enemy never managed to win and thanks to it, the strength of our nation has also survived.

So, the strength of the Church is the main reason for the attacks.

This is just the specifics that all those who make a grimace when hearing the words ‘Polish Nation’, also make a grimace hearing the word ‘Church’.

The Church is the community of faith and also teaching and values about which President often reminds. In a letter addressed to lawyers on the occasion of their pilgrimage to Jasna Góra, President of the Republic of Poland supported elimination of eugenic abortion. It has nearly been a year since in the Seym there has been the civilian project #Stop Abortion, which is also supported by the Polish Episcopal Conference and nearly a million of Poles. The Law and Justice party supported this kind of initiatives for many years. What has changed?

This question should be asked to the Seym….I can only say that I maintain my opinion on this issue and I will sign the act prohibiting eugenic abortion, as soon as the Seym outvotes it and submits it to me. Anyway, in the letter to lawyers making pilgrimage to Jasna Góra, it was not the first time I had expressed my support for life protection. Before that I had often spoken about it in my interviews when I was asked about it.

In this letter you explicitly pointed out that eugenic abortion had a reference to Nazis crimes. Now, in the 21st century, we should opt for inviolability of the right for life.

Well…this is what I think.

Recently we have also had the first anniversary of submitting a request to the Constitutional Tribunal about stating unconstitutionality of eugenic abortion. So far nothing has happened in this issue. A similar request in 1997 was considered by the Constitutional Tribunal after 5 months. Can President, as the guard of the constitution, do anything in this matter?

Please, ask the Constitutional Tribunal about it, as at this stage, when some provisions have already been accused, president loses his influence on the further course of events.

A great defender of life and family was St. John Paul II who entered history and changed the political map of the world, and, mainly, Europe. But the Pope wanted Europe to gain a lot from Christian values. How can this will be implemented today?

It is good that our St. John Paul II was elected already at such a time when mass media were very popular all over the world. Recordings of his words, teaching are easily accessible and thanks to it is difficult to falsify his thoughts. The Holy Father John Paul II often told us who we should be and what should be important to us, what system of values we should have. When it seemed that communism would never disappear, he always called for the Holy Spirit, so that the Holy Spirit would renew the face of our earth…and so did it happen. Particularly I recall myself his words said to the youth at Westerplatte. Since then everyone has their own Westerplatte and tasks which should be realized in life. I often recall myself the words of the Pope from the time when we were joining the European Union. He often told us to bring Christian values into the community, with which Poles had already been living for 1052 years.

Is defending Christian values in Europe such a Westerplatte, do you think?

Every time when we are discussing the crisis and future of the EU, I try to remind others of the Christian values which defined Europe. I also remind that fathers the founders of European communities: Alcide de Gasperi and Robert Schuman are candidates for being proclaimed saints today. Departing from Christianity we destroy heritage of these people who were the creators of the European community.

John Paul II always said that independence is given to us as a gift but also as a duty. At present an unknown ideology to us is imposed on us from Brussels, as well as strong political pressures. Isn’t it a new form of enforcing our dependence?

This is a typically ideological clash. Political groups which are governing Brussels today and lots of European countries, have a completely different vision of a country than we do, as well as what should be important for the society and what a system of values should be like. Therefore there is a dispute. If Poles elected me to be president, and the Law and Justice party gave their majority of votes in the parliament, it means that they are expecting us to represent our Polish values in the European community.

A lot of aspects from President’s program and the Law and Justice party have already been implemented, for example, support for families or lowering the retirement age. And what about the reform of the justice system?

Indeed, these elements which had a fundamental significance from the social point of view, have been realized effectively and secured to an essential extent. In Poland it is also necessary to bring back the feeling of elementary justice, and it requires repair of the system of justice. This reform is difficult for us, as it is seen that the whole group in its previous form is strong. We find it difficult as these are ‘elites’ which are supported by some bodies in Brussels and can say untrue things about Poland. Therefore, the reform must be implemented calmly but consistently. It is also necessary to remove ordinary pathologies from the system of justice, about which everyone knows very well. I hope that establishing new Chambers in the Supreme Court: the Disciplinary Chamber and the Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Matters will bring back belief in the justice of the Polish country.

President, you are also the Superior of Polish Military Forces. What is our safety like today?

In the recent years we managed to do really a lot, so as to strengthen our safety. Firstly, we raised expenditures for defence and we decided that till the year 2030 they will reach up to 2.5 percent of the National Gross Product. The second important event was the summit meeting of NATO in the year 2016 during which we managed to make our allies decide to set forward armies of allies towards the East. As a result, there are NATO armies at the helm with soldiers of the United States in Poland, in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Romania. We are also finishing to build the American base in Redzików, which is the part of a big system of the anti-missile shield.

When will construction work of the famous Fort Trump begin?

I called the planned base of the American army Fort Trump, which is liked by the USA. At present there are discussions on details between the White House, Pentagon and Congress. We expect the final decision in spring 2019 and I hope that the next purpose of increasing Poland safety will end successfully. But I would like to remind of one more important decision, that is, establishing Armies of Territorial Defence. I talked about this issue on polygon and I have an unusually positive evaluation of our new soldiers. In most cases these are educated people, working in very interesting jobs, and offering their unique skills to the Polish Army. They arrived here for purely patriotic reasons and have very high morale and it is very important in the army. I hope that this formation will still develop and become a permanent element of safety of our country.

We will refer to history again. Are we safer today than in the 30s of the last century? At that time we had one of the biggest armies in Europe and guarantee from France and Great Britain.

At present our situation looks different as beside the guarantee on paper we have our allies physically present in Poland. The NATO armies and, first of all, of the United States, the biggest military powerful country in the world, are in our country – that is, it is not that when it is necessary to help, they may arrive…In 1939 there were not allied armies in our country and nobody helped us. I suppose that if the French and the English had had a serious attitude to their commitments and attacked the Nazis Germany, the history of the Second World War would look different. According to the analysis of historians, Germany were not prepared enough to face such an attack. Similarly Poland did not sustain an attack both from Germany on 1 September and the Soviet Union on 17 September 1939.

If the allies had attacked, Stalin might have behaved differently, too.

It is possible ….If this courage and determination were in the French and the English, military actions might have been completely different. But – Hitler invaded France and later Great Britain had hard moments. However, I would like to calm down you again. Today the situation is completely different as the allied American armies are in Poland.

Indeed, it is your merit, President, and the merit of the current authority. For many years the presence of the Americans in Poland was only a political dream.

I began these efforts to gain it, being still the elect president. When in June 2015 I had talked with the general secretary of NATO Jens Stoltenberg for the first time, I told him that I wanted NATO bases to be in Poland. At that time Stoltenberg got frightened of our demand and said that nobody would agree to it. So, I began to travel round the country to negotiate. We agreed and today we have allied armies in Poland.

We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of regaining independence and President is the supreme representative of the Republic of Poland. Which of the previous speeches of the head of the state could be a message for the young generation?

It could be the speech which I gave during a National Meeting in Poznań on the occasion of the 1050th anniversary of Poland baptism. It was reaching back to historic roots and values on which our nationality is formed. Christianity is also the fundament of Europe about which we must remember. After all, our whole European culture and also identity are the effects of a good way of implementing market economy, which is based on Christian personalism. Another tip for the young are the words from my speech at the funeral of ‘Inka’ and ‘Zagończyk’. I was explaining why that young girl had ordered somebody to inform my grandma that ‘she behaved in a necessary way’. She did not say that grandma should not worry, that everything would be all right, etc. ‘Inka’ was brought in such a way so that she would know that what was the most important for grandma was that the whole family would maintain honour, dignity and would not betray their Homeland. May the young look at what was a value in the most difficult times. They will answer the question then: Why is this mistreated ‘Inka’ a great heroine of free Poland today?

As a minister in the Presidential Office of President Lech Kaczyński you observed the late President Kaczyński be attacked by media and politicians. Do you feel now when there are attacks on President Andrzej Duda, that history repeats?

Participating in the election with a particular program I knew that lots of media and politicians would not be lenient to me. I knew that a lot of institutions in our country requires changes and reforms and it would not be approved of. So, I expected attacks from oppositional politicians and some media. But I think that the late Lach Kaczyński was more attacked than me and attacks on him were relentless. Today there are also more media, which are favourable to building a strong country. There are journalists who look at the reality objectively and also show good changes in our country and there are a lot of them. If the Polish policy was not realized effectively, and our issues were hardly negotiated, they might have left me alone as the weak are not attacked.

Finally, here is a personal question. President’s serving to Homeland is a hard and very responsible duty. Where do you, President, have spiritual strength from?

I am a religious man and what is important for me is entrusting my issues to Divine Providence. Our Father, who had to make various difficult decisions, is an example to me. Today people forget how brutally he was attacked from the beginning of his pontificate. When asked how he coped with it, he answered: - I pray and do not worry.

Thank you for the interview.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 45/2018 (11 XI 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl