TESTAMENT OF JAN OLSZEWSKI
Michał Karnowski, a publicist of the weekly ‘Sieci’ and an internet portal wPoliyce.pl
In the history of the Third Republic of Poland, the half-year governmental time of Jan Olszewski (December 1991 – June 1992) may appear to some people as an episode. It is necessary to explain young people why it was so important. In fact, in a political sense it was a weak political body, torn away with inner contradictions, broken apart by actions of various agents, treated by media domineering then with terrible despise. When it was failing, people considering themselves as owners of Poland, sighed with a relief that the agreement of communists with the leftist part of the solidarity remains safe, that the political communist authority would still be changed into property and influences with what was called capitalism.
Because although the world was changing radically around us, in Poland assumptions of a compromise with the communists were maintained. It made sense in 1989. But stubborn maintaining those agreements in 1991 was a harmful absurd. And Jan Olszewski, present at the Round Table, understood is perfectly, similarly as deceased Lech Kaczyński. They – and many others – understood that the chance to build a normal country, to get separated from pathology of totalitarian regime is lost in hundreds of not good agreements and contracts. Needless to say, even the Soviet bases were supposed to remain in the role of economic bases, which had been planned by Lech Wałęsa, but Jan Olszewski blocked it in the last minute. ‘Today I see that whose Poland will be must be decided’ – these memorable words from his last speech as the prime minister, were well-proven by tasks which the patriotic group was facing up in the next decades.
He mentioned those months in one of his last interviews for the portal wPolityce.pl on the occasion of his 87th birthday: ‘It was obvious from the beginning that it was a mission of a high risk. But it was necessary to take that risk. Especially that it this government was created at the moment when the Soviet Union failed. It was obvious both for me and many people who were cooperating with me then that it was a special moment, particular chance. Certainly, one can say that it was necessary to do more – and surely it was. From the perspective of time in can see some things which should have been done but weren’t, or which should have been done differently’.
We also asked whether there was a chance that Poland would be the same as he had dreamt of. ‘I did not even have a glimmer of hope then – as I can see today, unjustified – that it might be possible. I think that today there is a very high degree of probability. On the one hand we must realize that everything depends on a definite will of action. And it must be maintained’.
However, it turned out that the political defeat of 1992 brought a great moral message. A signpost put up then influenced those who were participating in that government and remained active on the political arena. But what is more important, he formed the political way of thinking among hundreds and thousands of young people who were looking at those events from the far. Pressure on strengthening independence, on a fight for rejecting pathology brought to judicial system, business, historiography by communism was present in the years 1997 (Solidarity Movement Action)- 2005 (the beginning of presidency of deceased Lech Kaczyński and the reign of the Law and Justice party), 2015 (double victory of the group of Jarosław Kaczyński). He did not always win but he always made an important pressure.
In this sense the life of Jan Olszewski may appear as fulfilled in a unique way. Born in 1930, he belonged to the generation which experienced first free Poland and then a terrible tragedy of the German and Soviet occupation, finally stifling times of communist Poland. Jan Olszewski was not only a witness. He was a member of the Gray Ranks, the underground form of scouting, a participant of the Warsaw Uprising; he supported anti-communist spurt, defending their participants. Today we forget how much courage it required, especially at the time before Solidarity movement was created. There were only a few of those people then. He did not hesitate to support the family of murdered bl. Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko. He was a man of faith and never betrayed Church. Socialist heritage never pushed him towards anti-Polish or anti-religious attitude. In all kinds of activity he was following the trend which we consider as the most beautiful, the most valuable today and which remains in the national memory. He had been an active commentator till the end of his life. He was considered as a great moral authority, he gave his advice, sometimes admonition to the political group governing Poland today. In the afore-mentioned interview he said: ‘Saying the final farewell, I would like to believe that the change which is taking place in Poland is permanent. I want it to be decided’.
All of us must understand it in our hearts and conscience. In my memories he will remain as a person who was strong and steadfast in his modest flat in Warsaw, sitting at the table with tea and a plum in chocolate, despite his illness, speaking about Poland with love and care. I will remember him so.
God, let Poland have the further generations of politicians of this greatness, this awareness which are serving to Homeland, and which differentiate respect from the applause of the crowd.
Translated by Aneta Amrozik
Niedziela 7/2019 (17 II 2019)