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The Warsaw Voice » Society » July 30, 2008
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Solidarity Icon Geremek Dies in Crash
July 30, 2008   
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One of the icons of Poland's Solidarity movement, Bronisław Geremek, a member of the European Parliament and a former foreign minister, died in a car accident in western Poland July 13. Doctors say Geremek died at the scene from massive internal injuries when the Mercedes he was driving near the town of Nowy Tomyśl veered across the road for reasons yet to be established and collided head-on with a van coming the other way. A woman traveling with him and the driver and passenger of the van sustained serious injuries.

Geremek joined the communist party in 1950 and rose through the ranks to become second secretary of the Basic Party Organization at the University of Warsaw. He resigned from the party in 1968 to protest the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia that year.

Geremek was active in the democratic opposition from the latter half of the 1970s, and in August 1980 became an advisor to Solidarity, the independent trade union movement that was to help topple communism throughout the Soviet Bloc a decade or so later. He was interned for 12 months when martial law was introduced in Poland in December 1981.

Geremek took part in the Round Table discussions of 1989 in which Solidarity got the communist authorities to agree to a power sharing arrangement, the first step towards today's parliamentary democracy.

He was a member of parliament from 1989 to 2001 and a founding member of the Democratic Action Citizens' Movement, the Democratic Union and the Freedom Union (UW) political parties. Geremek was a UW leader from 2000 to 2001. He served as foreign minister in the center-right coalition government of Jerzy Buzek from October 1997 to June 2000. He was elected to the European Parliament in 2004 on a UW ticket where he joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Geremek became a member of the Democratic Party, the successor to the UW, in 2005.

Geremek was laid to rest beside some of Poland's most famous sons and daughters in the Avenue of the Meritorious at Warsaw's Powązki Cemetery July 21. Many of the country's prominent citizens were there to pay their respects, including President Lech Kaczyński, former presidents Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Lech Wałęsa, and Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Geremek's seat in the European parliament is to be taken up by Andrzej Wielowieyski, a former deputy senate speaker and former member of parliament on UW ticket.

Geremek was born in Warsaw March 6, 1932. He graduated from the Faculty of History of the University of Warsaw in 1954 and undertook post-graduate studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris from 1956 to 1958. He completed his PhD in 1960 and successfully defended his post-doctoral dissertation at the Polish Academy of Sciences in 1972. He was made an associate professor in 1989.

The Voice's Editor-in-Chief Andrzej Jonas writes:

As impressive as the facts and figures of Bronisław Geremek's life are, they fall short of giving the true measure of the man. Geremek was an exceptional figure who lived through exceptional times and no amount of raw data can do him justice. To understand the mold that made Geremek, we need to go back to the Warsaw of 1932, back to a free pre-war Poland in an era before Soviet domination.

Geremek went on to play a pivotal role in building a free, democratic Poland, a country that shapes its own destiny, and in helping Poland take its rightful place on the international arena. Both at home and abroad, Geremek was an icon. His contribution to his country is hard to overestimate.
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