Row over Lech Wałęsa's alleged collaboration with communists escalates

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Friday, June 20, 2008

A book alleging that Solidarity trade union leader and former Polish president Lech Wałęsa collaborated with communist security services (SB) raised a major stir in Polish media this week, with insults and threats of lawsuits heating up the mood even before its scheduled publication next week.

Wałęsa in 2007

According to its authors, National Remembrance Institute (IPN) historians Sławomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, the book shows that Wałęsa, who in 1983 won the Nobel Peace Prize for leading the peaceful Solidarity movement that later led to the downfall of communism in Poland, had collaborated with the SB in the early 1970. They also allege that Wałęsa received payment for reports that later led to repressions against his fellow dissidents.

Wałęsa said he would sue state-owned broadcaster Telewizja Polska for 20 million zlotys in damages after it aired a documentary detailing the book's allegations on June 18.

On June 17, IPN vice-president Maria Dmochowska apologized to Wałęsa for the book in an open letter published in national media, while right-wing national daily Rzeczpospolita ran cover-page interview with the books authors in which they supported their claims.

Last week Wałęsa and current President Lech Kaczyński traded harsh words after Kaczyński said he knew that Wałęsa had been a collaborator. Wałęsa called the president was "an inhibited, little man who shook with fear his whole life", and said he would sue him if it was formally possible to do so.

The book, SB a Lech Wałęsa. Przyczynek do biografii (The SB and Lech Wałęsa: a contribution to a biography), is set to be published on June 23.