Fill out the brief form below for access to the free report.
New on the Freedom Collection: Bronislaw Wildstein
This post originally appeared on the Freedom Collection’s blog: Freedom Square.
When a person has the audacity to oppose his country’s authoritarian regime in the struggle for basic human freedoms, running the risk of imprisonment or worse, it’s an amazing thing. After all, liberty cannot be won from dictators without those who are willing to take considerable risks. One such person, Poland’s Bronislaw Wildstein, has been taking risks for the cause of freedom for 40 years and his story is now part of the Freedom Collection.
Wildstein began his activism as a student in the early 1970s. Along with others, he printed and distributed anticommunist leaflets, collected money for imprisoned workers, and drafted an appeal to release workers arrested in the antigovernment protests of 1976. In 1977, Wildstein cofounded the Student Committee of Solidarity, an opposition group formed in response to the unsolved death of student activist Stanislaw Pyjas; many students suspected his death had been orchestrated by government agents.
In 1980, Wildstein became involved in the Lenin Shipyard strike, a demonstration by workers that changed the course of Polish history. The strike attracted national, popular support and forced the communists to negotiate with the workers. The Lenin Shipyard strike also resulted in the formation of Solidarity, the first independent labor union in the communist world that transformed into a nationwide freedom movement.
Prior to the Polish government’s declaration of martial law in 1981, which was a means to crackdown on political opposition, Wildstein secured a passport and left Poland for Western Europe. During his time in the West, he served as an advocate for the freedom movement in Poland, cofounded the anticommunist periodical Kontakt, and worked for Radio Free Europe.
Wildstein returned to his country after communism fell and worked as a journalist for several daily papers, including Zycie Warszawy and Rzeczpospolita. In 2005, he became entangled in the issue of transitional justice when he obtained and distributed a list (often referred to as “Wildstein’s List”) to fellow journalists containing both the names of collaborators and victims of the communist-era secret police.
Watch Bronislaw Wildstein’s interview on the Freedom Collection and learn more about the risks he and fellow activists took to defeat communism in Poland:
- Martial Law – “At the beginning, we were shocked at how easily martial law was introduced.”
- Promoting Solidarity Abroad – “This was a fascinating adventure for me, because it was the first time I traveled to the West.”
- Illusions of Prosperity – “One indicator of prosperity was the possibility of buying a tiny Fiat automobile after several years of saving.”
Christopher Walsh is Program Coordinator for the Freedom Collection.
Christopher Walsh serves as a Manager for the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
Chinese Prisoner’s Death Holds a Message for Americans and China
Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner died this week. His death holds a message for Americans and for China.
Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
More than half the world’s population still lives in countries where basic political rights and civil liberties are only partly respected, if at all.
Bringing Freedom to the Forefront of 21st Century Politics
Is the global liberal democratic order in danger? Purposefully constructed in the aftermath of World War II, this order -- and the American leadership that is central to its success --has contributed to securing peace and expanding prosperity in the United States and around the world. Today, that order appears to be dissolving. This crisis is not new or sudden; it has been mounting for several years. Global challenges like authoritarian capitalism, violent extremism, demographic pressures, and displaced populations have placed global freedom in decline. Fraying traditional alliances united by core values of freedom are increasingly weak to respond. It is alarming that the downdraft in democratic resilience over the past decade or more includes countries that have long been part of the consolidated democratic West. This is democratic deconsolidation. In much of the Western world, we see a rise in demagogic populism, illiberalism, nationalism, protectionism, and waning conf
The Importance of Speaking Truth to Tyrants
What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe