Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Poland in turmoil after controversial documentary on Walesa

Lech Walesa will sue the filmmaker of a documentary about himself, Head of Polish Television and Chairman of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) for slander.

“Everybody who disseminates such tripe should be severely punished”, the legendary “Solidarity” leader and former Polish President told TVN24 television yesterday in reference to the documentary broadcast on the Polish Public Television on Wednesday.

The documentary “Secret Agent Bolek” featured, among others, the two authors of the recent book about Walesa “Secret Services and Lech Walesa. A Contribution to the Biography”, IPN historians Slawomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, who talked about the origin of their book.

The documentary also presented comments by Lech Walesa’s former colleagues from the Gdansk Shipyard where he was employed as an electrician in 1970s, as well as former Communist Secret Services (SB) officer who maintained Walesa’s personal files.

The documentary clearly indicated that Walesa had collaborated with SB under the nickname “Bolek” and that he destroyed sections of the personal files drawn up by SB, reports TVN24.

The former Solidarity legend admitted that he had not seen the documentary, but denied any co-operation with the Communist services and said the filmmaker, Head of Polish Television and IPN Chairman would be sued for up to 20 million zlotys each for slander.

“Walesa collaborated with SB, but he remains one of the key figures of the 20th century nevertheless. No one can question that”, one of the authors of the book, Piotr Gontarczyk told TVN24 yesterday.

The historian said that perhaps the Communist services had blackmailed Walesa into cooperation although evidence for that was never found.

“We do not want to destroy the legend of Walesa. We only intend to amend his biography”, Slawomir Cenckiewicz said on TVN24.

According to an opinion poll conducted by pollster PBS DGA for TVN24 on June 19, 71 per cent of Poles do not believe that the latest publication about Lech Walesa and a debate on his past is necessary.

Some 59 per cent of the respondents to the poll said the debate on the book about Walesa would not change their perception of the Solidarity legend, while only 18 per cent were of the opposite opinion.

The official premiere of the book “Secret services and Lech Walesa. A Contribution to the Biography” is scheduled for June 23.

Lech Walesa was the co-founder of the Solidarity trade union, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995. He is one of the few Poles known all around the world.