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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.