Until death do us part

Alicja Dolowska

They kept the marriage vows ‘until death do us part.’ They were together till the last moments of their lives. Her body was identified by the wedding ring.

This love was evident in their ways of looking at each other and in their gestures. They loved each other. ‘My dad often embraces mum’, their daughter Marta said. Elzbieta Jakubiak, who was the head of the Presidential Chancellery, admits that they showed tenderness even during official ceremonies. She straightened his tie, brought sandwiches in a plastic bag to the presidential plane, for which she was ridiculed in the press. Since the liberal media could not accept her in any way; she was ‘not of this tale.’

Maria – fighter’s wife

Sometimes he called her ‘Maluszek’. And he admitted, ‘Without Marylka I could not live.’ And what about her? Looking at 32 years of her marriage she humbly said that standing by the side of Lech Kaczynski, a fighter, she covered his back. Although she joked, ‘God forbid marrying a twin since twinship is hard. She loved her brother-in-law Jaroslaw and understood her husband’s big concern, and even certain over-protectiveness for his brother. ‘For Jaroslaw is single. That’s why my husband shared his problems and worried about him’, she explained. People maliciously said that Jaroslaw, being the brain of Law and Justice Party, controlled Lech from the back seat. But those who knew them both knew that it was impossible because Lech Kaczynski had a very strong personality and knew how to be self-reliant.
‘The President respected his brother for his complete dedication to politics and Poland. He realised that he would return home to his wife and daughter whereas his brother dedicated everything to politics. There were times when Jaroslaw Kaczynski lived on the edge of poverty but he did not give up. The President could not understand why people judged his brother is such an unfair way’, Elzbieta admitted.
Maria was sensitive. Her heart ached when her husband was mocked. And Lech Kaczynski said, ‘I would wish all men such wives who would carry the burden of politics.’ ‘Sometimes he did not understand people; he did not know why they did not want to hear what the state needed. He had a clear vision of Poland’s role in Europe – perhaps not a power but a strong state, fully aware of its potential. He knew that we could be a strong country and not a car going after a big engine. Hence these talks about our alliance with the USA, his support for the Eastern politics: Ukraine, Georgia. His activities were always explicable and deliberate’ Mrs Jakubiak commented.
He wanted to be a president of Poland realising solidarity. He did a lot to make this vision happen. But the idea of his presidency remained a challenge that only future generations will have to meet. He was faithful to this dream. When he vetoed the health bills about restructurization of public hospitals into commercial companies he told the journalists that he could not imagine patients being treated differently and having better medical help in the same hospital because some had money and the others did not. He thought that such spheres of social life as health protection or education should be subject to the market mechanisms to the smallest extent.
As a professor of labour law he saw the increasing threats resulting from the imbalance between the environment of employees and employers for whom the period of the transformation of the system was an occasion to make profit, especially when the number of jobs dramatically decreased. He wanted to have ‘a social agreement’ in Poland, like in other countries, between employers, trade unions and the government. ‘However, it was not possible’, Stanislaw Szwed, an MP of Law and Justice, claims. ‘One should negotiate such an agreement for a long time and the government of Law and Justice lasted only two years.’
When the news spread that the Presidential Couple would be buried at the Wawel Cathedral, next to the coffin of Jozef Pilsudski, and a group of dissatisfied people organised a protest in the Market Square in Krakow, Prof. Jadwiga Staniszkis tried to convince the TV audience that it was a very good decision because of the big dream of Lech Kaczynski about strong Poland and society of solidarity. ‘And these days we should value people for their dreams. Those that are protesting now do not realise what it means to be excluded, to be left to oneself’, the sociologist explained. The President was told to be a man of tough policy in relations with Russia. However, those that once accused him of showing Russophobia say now that it was good that he fought for a strong position of Poland in Europe. ‘He thought that the relationships with Russia must be of partner character. If Russia is a European country she must respect all partners. He thought that we should speak about that clearly and realise that the Russian interests are different than ours’, Elzbieta Jakubiak explains.

He did not want cheap applause

His knowledge was deep and his considerations were wise. He was a guardian of our national memory but he did not know how to ‘sell’ his true picture in front of microphones and TV cameras, which caused that many Popes did not know him. ‘The attacks against him in the liberal media continued. He was insulted every day. Was he thick-skinned? No, he was not. He felt that he was deeply harmed. Maria Kaczynska experienced those attacks very much. She was sorry that her husband was under such big pressure. ‘Sometimes she came to me and said that her heart was painful, ‘I do not know how we can keep living.’ It seemed to her that people wanted to devoid them of the joy of their big success’, Elzbieta Jakubiak says And confirms that President Kaczynski did not intend to promote himself in the media like other politicians do. ‘He used to say, ‘I won the elections and will not yield to the virtual reality because it is fiction. This is not the way to conduct politics. It is empty and will end badly. It is the logics of madness’, Mrs Jakubiak recollects. ‘Being the First Lady has changed my life. More that I thought’, Maria Kaczynska admitted in her last interview given two days before her death. When Lech Kaczynski won the presidential elections she hesitated to move to ‘the golden cage’, which in some sense was the Presidential Palace for both of them. They had lived in the Warsaw district of Powisle for four years. They had known all their neighbours and people from the district. She made friends with the woman at the butcher’s. She used to tell her that she had to make her husband loose weight since he had the tendency to gain weight and she often bought small sausages for him.
It seemed to her that being the First Lady she would be in the shadow of her predecessor Jolanta Kwasniewska who liked fashionable cloths and luxurious costumes and was very popular with the magazines. But Maria Kaczynska could play the role of the First lady excellently although she bought dresses and costumes in boutiques in Powisle. She always found something simple and elegant. Her great advantage was her perfect knowledge of English and French. She also knew some Russian and Spanish. She was an excellent partner in talks, a person with winning manners. Jan Ligthart, the Dutch breeder of tulips, which she liked most, developed a breed of cream-coloured tulips, which had taken him 18 years of cultivation, and called it ‘Maria Kaczynska’. ‘Its shape and colour suit Maria like no other flowers. These tulips are quite big as in my heart the First Lady is a great person although she was short and minute’, the grower said.
She was involved in charity work. Two days before the tragic flight she participated in launching a new project of Caritas Polska, which was Internet Radio Station (Radio IN) that was to be created by the disabled. She wanted the radio to pay special attention to the situation of mothers with disabled children. The day before her flight to Katyn she met the Polish immigrants from the East who had spent the Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection in Poland thanks to the action ‘Easter in Poland’.

The are issuing a call to arms!

Maciej Chojnowski, the photographer of the President, recollects him as a cordial person, having a sense of humour, who did not took it to heart that his small height was visible in the photos. ‘President Kaczynski used to say that he was a Wolodyjowski. He could look at himself with reserve’, Chojnowski recollected. It is not by accident that he was to use the motif from ‘Little Knight’ [Wolodyjowski] in his re-election campaign.
Lech Kaczynski was said to be a brave man. Elzbieta Jakubiak claims that being involved in politics for years Lech and Jaroslaw knew that politics was a dangerous job and risk can be the price of choices. And Lech’s choices were always political. From 1976 he helped in the Intervention Bureau of the Workers’ Defence Committee. From 1978 he was active in the Independent Trade Unions. When the Trade Union ‘Solidarity’ originated he was a counsellor of the strikers in the Shipyard in Gdansk. For some time he was even the Vice-President of ‘Solidarity’ and deputy of Lech Walesa.
Arrested at home on the night of 12 December 1981 he was interned and imprisoned in Strzebielnik for almost a year. His wife was left with one year-old Marta, not knowing what would happen to him. In 2008 he organised support of the delegation of the countries from the region to protest against the Russian intervention in Georgia. Then he came under fire in the borderland. Was she afraid then?
‘Life is generally dangerous but one cannot live in constant fear and anxiety. I always presume that it will be good’, Maria Kaczynska said in one of her interviews.
Lech Kaczynski taught us how to be proud of Poland. Being the President of Warsaw he founded the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising literally at the last moment since the generation of the insurgents passes away unrelentingly. He awarded the forgotten heroes. Thanks to him the mothers imprisoned in Stalin’s camps, the forgotten heroes of ‘Solidarity’, the judges who had refused to sentence the activists of ‘Solidarity’ and the Righteous among the Nations regained satisfaction at the end of their lives.
Some internaut wrote in his condolences, ‘Mr President, they are issuing a call to arms! And you are not rising! You are not taking your sabre! You are not mounting your horse! What has happened to you, knight? Have you forgotten your old virtue and you are leaving us sorrowful and anxious?’

"Niedziela" 17/2010

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl