Recently on our publishing market, there has appeared an interesting book by dr. Robert Żurek entitled: ‘Infected by Polish freedom’. This is a collection of interviews which this historian and the German writer conducted with the former NRD dissidents who were liaisons between the eastern-German and the Polish opposition at the communist times. They were so fascinated by our culture that they even learnt Polish language which was a rare thing in Germany.
In 2008 I and Fr. Paweł Cebula published a volume of interviews which we carried out with Magyar oppositionists entitled: ‘Hungarian liaison’. In their statements there was the same motif which dominated in interviews of Robert Żurek with dissidents of NRD. They choked on Polish freedom. Our country appeared to them as the funniest barrack in the camp, while they perceived their countries as the gloomiest barracks. Although in communist Polish People’s Republic there was communism, it was not so oppressive as the one during the reigns of Janos Kadar or Erich Honecker. For example in our country churches were full, there were jazz clubs, it was possible to go hitchhiking. All this in their countries was forbidden. Therefore, every trip to the Vistula and Oder was a gulp of freedom for them.
Interestingly, Poland attracted followers both of the rightist party and the leftist party, believers and non-believers. So, on the one hand, there was Wolfgang Templin – the former Marxist and Trotskyite who became an informer for Stasi for even for two years, but broke cooperation with secret police he unmasked himself publicly in 1975. Whereas on the other hand one can point to such people as a pastor and evangelical theologian Markus Meckel or Ludwig and Heimgard Mehlhornow – ardent believers.
An important role in impressing on them with Polishness was played by our culture, for example, a pastor and a dissident Eckart Hubener said: ‘Miłosz freed me from fear’. What had a more influence on their attitudes was steadfastness of the Polish Catholic Church, especially, of the primate Wyszyński. Some eastern-German evangelists took an active part in the action Repentance Sign, for example, when arriving at Auschwitz and working for the sake of Polish-German and Catholic-Protestant reconciliations.
A new chapter began with the election of John Paul II and establishing ‘Solidarity’ movement. At that time the Polish opposition became the basic point of reference for dissidents’ movements in all countries of real socialism, also in NRD. In the eastern-German society, intimidated and strongly infiltrated by agents of Stasi, the opposition was rachitic and was expressed not so much in political activity, but in cultural resistance and refusal of getting engaged in public activity, which made the system confidential. German liaisons smuggled illegal literature from Poland, than duplicators. Although they were permanently observed by special services, in NRD secret police did not manage to gain the most important information about common meetings dissidents in Poland.
At the times of Solidarity official propaganda of NRD presented Poles as a nation which is still on strike, because it is lazy. The main characters of the book by Robert Żurek presented themselves in this black legend, saying what the situation really looks like in our country.
After the collapse of communism, most of the thirteen interlocutors of the Polish historian began to participate actively in the public life of united Germany. They remained ambassadors of Polishness, still explaining their compatriots our point of view and presenting them our sensitivity. It is only shame that there are very few such people. Especially that we should remember about them and remind about their roles. Such function is surely fulfilled by the book by Robert Żurek. This is a pioneer work because nobody has still written about this scarcely-known fragment of the Polish-German relations. Therefore it is worth reading.