I have to admit it was very depressing to hear about the deaths of Polish president Lech Kaczynski, a hero of the revolution that threw off Russian tyranny and brought democracy to Poland, and other senior Polish leaders. As a young boy growing up in Alabama, I heard a lot of stories from my Russian father, a survivor of Communists’ purges in Russia and Yugoslavia, about the cruelty, heartlessness, and murderous proclivities of Communist regimes. My father was very heartened by the Solidarity movement at a time when there was not much reason to be hopeful. It is hard to remember today that, at that time, no one thought it possible that the Communists would ever lose control in the Soviet Union; that the Soviet empire, which was held together by fear of the Russian military and secret police, would ever fall apart; or that European countries like Poland that had been imprisoned behind an Iron Curtain for 40 years would ever become free.
Kaczynski was a great friend and ally of the United States, despite Obama’s shabby treatment of Poland. He supported democracy in other countries that had been under the Soviet yoke, such as Ukraine and Georgia, and wanted to expand NATO to protect the former Soviet republics from future Russian aggression, something that is almost guaranteed given the views of Putin and his henchmen. Kaczynski’s continued deep suspicion of Moscow was fully justified.
The Solidarity movement that Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw were involved in gave my father hope that one day freedom would reawaken in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, my father died in 1988, just before the peaceful revolutions started in 1989, so he never saw the Communists’ fall from power. But I have no doubt that he was looking down on what was happening and smiling to see something he and many of his friends had fought for finally come to pass because of the efforts of brave men like Lech Kaczynski.