This radio has been listened to by about 60 % of Poles for decades. It was mostly called 'Free Europe', sometimes 'Warsaw 4'. However, its programs were not broadcast from the capital of Poland in captivity but from Munich. And jamming their broadcast cost the authorities of the People's Polish Republic three times more than their emission in USA
On 3 May 1952, on the Radio 'Free Europe', Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a director of the Polish Section, beginning his regular programs of 'The Radio Free Europe - the Voice of Free Europe' said as follows: 'Here is Radio 'Free Europe', the Voice of Free Europe. Here is the Polish Team of various beliefs and political opinions which have gathered around a microphone. But we are united by one wonderful understanding which gives us aiming at one common purpose: we will tell you the truth about events happening in the world which the Soviet regime wants to conceal from you in order to kill the remains of hope in you. We will inform you about all actions of Poland in the international arena. We will be carrying out a fight against russification and sovietisation of the Polish culture; we will be also carrying out a fight against falsifying our history and our tradition, as well as a fight against denationalization of our youth. We will present you a Polish political thought which was stifled in the enslaved country, but is developing in free conditions of freedom. We will say loudly what the Polish society cannot say'.
The Radio had been functioning under the name of 'Radio Free Europe - the Voice of Free Europe' till the year 1958. Later it was called only the Radio Free Europe. As prof. Jan Żaryń emphasized during a session devoted to the Radio organised by the University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Radio Free Europe had been created from the initiative of people aware that the superior value is the nation and the free word should be addressed to it. At the end of the 40s they were in the Political Council of Polish emigration. Later they joined the Committee of Free Europe - a great American project whose aim was to support the enslaved nations and transmit the free word to the area of Middle-Eastern countries. But the Radio Free Europe was not the only anti-communist radio on the area of Western Europe or America. Its serious competitor, weakly stifled, was 'The Voice of America'. There were other dynamic radio stations, founded by Polonia at the beginning of the war: the Polish Section BBC, Radio Vatican, Radio France Internationale, Radio Canada, Radio Madrid and Radio 'Maria' - a small radio station transmitted to the Mediterranean Sea, initiated by Fr. Jedrzej Giertych.

Missionary Radio

Although the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Polish Section Radio Free Europe is being celebrated this year, its beginning is dated to two years earlier; whereas the headquarters was not Munich but New York. The first director was Lesław Bodeński and the team consisted of a few people. The following year the management was taken over by a prominent pre-war journalist and a Member of Parliament from the list of the National Democracy Stanisław Strzelecki. He and his Munich counterpart - socialist Jan Nowak-Jeziorański caused a situation that prominent journalists and writers started working in the Radio, among the others, Antoni Słonimski, Witold Gombrowicz, Józef Czapski, Jan Lechoń, Kazimierz Wierzyński, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, Włodzimierz Odojewski, Marian Hemar and a dramatist and writer Tadeusz Nowakowski who was the author of the biggest number of radio-plays on the Radio Free Europe. As a reporter who visited with John Paul II half of the world, reporting the Pope's visits for the Radio Free Europe - It was said that the Radio Free Europe is an informative radio - notes the former editor of the Radio, prof. Konrad Witold Tatarowski. - And, after all, the Radio Free Europe was also a culture-creating institution. After the war, the Polish culture was developing in two phases - in the country and in emigration. Writers stayed in emigration to various extents but nearly all of them were cooperating with the Radio Free Europe. The exception was Józef Mackiewicz. That is, the program of the Radio consisted of political programs in half, but 50% were literary and historical-educational programs. It is enough to mention a program which has gone to history of the Radio Free Europe - 'On a red index'. At the end of its activity, the Radio Free Europe had a name of 'Forbidden Set Books'. Its purpose was to present anti-communist literature and the real bestseller was 'Archipelago Gulag', being read for a few hundreds of hours. An unusually popular program was also 'A literary discussion' conducted by a prominent poet Jan Lechoń. It was participated by Polish literary men living in Western Europe. - Our Radio was a mission - emphasizes an editor Lechosław Gawlikowski - If one compares today's time devoted to history and culture in the Polish Radio, it turns out that the Radio Free Europe was 5 times more missionary than toady's Polish Radio. We could hear not only poets, writers and publicists but also pre-war prominent actors who performed in the extremely popular 'Theatre of Imagination' which were radio-plays. Listeners of the Radio Free Europe in the post-communist Poland were threatened by many-years imprisonment or a labour camp. In the 50s they were sentenced to several years of imprisonment for listening to the Radio; during the war time - for a few months. 'The most diligent' listeners of the Radio Free Europe were functionaries of Security Office and later of the Security Services, who edited a brochure on the basis of the programs on the Radio. The strictly controlled brochure was provided to trustworthy functionaries of the Polish Labour United Party every day who know the truth forbidden to others. For, the Radio revealed the crime of communism every day and thoughtless managing the economy, not only in Poland, but also in the whole world; from the Soviets, through China and 'countries of People's democracies', Cuba and Vietnam. The Radio used to tell a history through reports of the victim-refugees from communist regimes, as well as information of criminals who were leaving their countries for various reasons where they used to murder earlier, like Izaak Fleischfarb, that is, Józef Światło - a vice-director of the Department of Public Security Ministry, responsible for the extermination of the Polish nation in the 40s and 50s. He ran away to RFN during 'a business trip'- he was going on the order of Bierut and Kremlin in order to tell his comrades from NRD to murder Wanda Brońska - a journalist of Radio Free Europe - who knew many mysteries of Lenin and the first years of the Soviet genocide.

An unusual archive

The Radio played a valuable role in the field of education. It was the Radio of Free Europe on which one could listen to historical programs, speeches of great Poles who expressed their opinions on various events concerning the fates of Poland or the world. Thanks to the archive recordings, one can listen to legendary politicians even today, sentenced in the Polish People's Republic for non-existence, like generals Władysław Anders and Stanislaw Maczek, speeches of the Prime Minister Ignacy Paderewski from the beginning of the war, as well as Władysław Sikorski during signing the agreement Sikorski-Majski on July 1941. The contracts which were re-building relations between Poland and the Soviets, thanks to which hundred thousands of Poles avoided the fate of their compatriots sent to Siberia. One can also listen to conversations with the Prime Minister Stanislaw Mikołajczyk, who in 1947 left Poland, being threatened by an arrest or a discussion of politicians of the same situation as the president in exile Edward Raczyński of the general Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, a leader of the National Army and a commander of Military Forces in the country.

Unpredictable freedom

The Radio Free Europe was accompanying Poles during the breakthrough historical events - both in 1956 and also in 1970 or on victory days of 1980 and 1989. Thanks to the Radio we could participate in pilgrimages of John Paul II which were not reported by Polish People's Republic media. Three generations of journalistic emigration - just post-war of the 70s and the martial law. But- as Tadeusz Kieliński emphasizes - who began his work in the beginning of the 70s and had worked for the Radio Free Europe for over 20 years - although in the beginning every generation was not trustful towards each other, after a few years of work friendship started and even marriages took place.
An unquestionable personality was a director of the Polish Section Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, having this function for nearly a quarter of the century. The Radio Free Europe became the most significant and independent Polish radio in Western Europe under his management. And, also, what he often emphasized, it was 'an opinion creating centre and an ambassador of free Poland in the West'. The voice of journalists of the Radio was listened to by dissidents in USA or Great Britain. It also convinced prime ministers and presidents in Western Europe, as well as radio-listeners that Poland would regain its independence still in XX century.
Also Zygmunt Michałowski who in the Radio Free Europe had worked since 1954 and had a function of a director after the departure of Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, was not an ordinary person and he deeply believed that he would live till the time of freedom. He did and decided to live in Cracow where he died two years ago. Among nearly 500 journalists who worked or cooperated with the Radio, his chaplain was and is still mentioned with a special attention, as well as his journalist - priest Tadeusz Kirschke. The man unusually poor, who turned out to have given all his salaries for his work to poor Poles being in emigration.
But the radio was also experiencing its difficult years for nearly the whole decade of the 70s. After signing the Final Act of KBWE, the Soviet agents were especially putting pressure on the liquidation of it, as well as leftist environments in the West, saying that from that moment both the Soviets and satellite countries would keep to civic rights. Before the liquidation, the Radio Free Europe was 'rescued' by the Soviet invasion on Afghanistan.
As the journalists of the radio say unanimously today, among the other, Andrzej Świdlicki and Lechosław Gawlikowski, apart from the previous director - Zdzisław Najder, nobody of journalists or managers predicted that the Soviet empire would collapse; and Poland at the end of XX century would regain its independence. So, people working in the Radio Free Europe were not prepared for a situation when many of them would have to change their professions or 'emigrate' from Germany in the search of further work compatible with their professions. Many of them decided to return to the country.
After the liquidation of the Radio Free Europe in Munich in 1990, the radio was still acting in Warsaw for four years. Later its management decided that the Radio had fulfilled its mission - it contributed to regaining the independence.
However, the Radio Free Europe did not disappear from radio antennae. It is still broadcasting its programmes to over 20 countries with hope that - similarly as in Poland - it will contribute to regaining the truth and freedom.


"Niedziela" 18/2012

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