Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
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Sławina Kosmulska

Many of the writers from the newspaper were arrested and jailed

Gdańsk, Poland 2019
Polish English

Sławina Kosmulska , Community Organizer

My father was the writer, social and political activist Lech Badkowski. During the beginning of WW2 he fought for Poland during the invasion of Poland in September 1939. He then illegally emigrated first to France and then to England to continue fighting for a free Poland.  In England he wrote one of his first major books, Pomeranian Political Thought. After the war, in 1946, he came back to Poland even though the country was under Soviet occupation because he felt that he had to help build a strong civic society. Despite the oppression of Socialism he and some others founded an organization in 1956 that taught young people the history of political thought. In 1968 he and other writers wrote an open letter supporting the student protest movement. After this he could not publish any articles or books and he lost all of his ability to earn an income. Luckily my mother was working. 


                                     Book by Lech Badkowski with lines indicating censor marks 

From the early 1960s he had a small flat that he kept as an office for writing. In this space he organized meetings of young people to discuss civic society. The former Prime Minister and current President of the European Council, Donald Tusk was a part of this group as well as many other future leaders. In the materials from the Polish Memory Institute you can read reports from these meetings made by the Security Service as the apartment was bugged.  


I think that the of August 1980, the strikes and the Gdańsk Agreement were a kind of crown for my father’s activities. On August 21 he went to the Lenin shipyard with a letter of support from the Polish Writer’s Union for the Solidarity movement. Shortly after he became the press officer for Solidarity and was a part of the Strike Committee. He also published a weekly independent newspaper, Self-Governing. When Martial Law was imposed on December 13, 1981, many of the journalists from the newspaper were arrested and jailed. My father was not and we think it might of have been because he was ill. 


I am still inspired by my father’s actions and commitment to civic society. I am a member of the Osowa District Council in Gdańsk and a member of several associations, I work for human rights. Today one of the biggest problems is hate speech and we are working on several different fronts to solve this problem. In January 2019 the mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Bogdan Adamowicz was stabbed to death while he was speaking to a large public event where many people were gathered in the name of solidarity and the sharing of good will. That event was an alarm for how big the problem of hate speech has become over the past years and how much work we have to do to counter this problem. Even in the worst times of communism we did not have this kind of hatred and animosity between people. 

This conversation was in English and Polish and included translation 

Photos by Janeil Engelstad 

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