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The Warsaw Voice » Comments » June 3, 2009
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From the Editor-in-Chief
June 3, 2009   
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Twenty years ago, after successful negotiations between the Solidarity trade union and the communist government, semi-free parliamentary elections were held in Poland. In the lower house, Solidarity could run for 35 percent of the seats (and in fact won them all), and in the newly formed upper house-for 100 percent (and also won them all).

Twenty years ago young actress Joanna Szczepkowska charmingly proclaimed the end of communism on television. Many of us listened with disbelief. We were more inclined to credit her with boundless naiveté than any astute far-sightedness. Luckily, it was she who turned out to be right.

Without resorting to any detailed calculations, we can say that 20 years ago we regained our freedom. But freedom is not a fully defined state. Those who are free usually take their freedom for granted. Those who are deprived of it see it as a paradise where they can do anything, without restrictions. But experienced psychologists working with prisoners say that the closer it is to the end of a long-term sentence, the greater the fear of freedom.

Poland unquestionably served a long-term sentence under communism. And freedom really did seem like a dream paradise, with only some suspecting it wasn't all sweetness. With time, this realization was shared by many.

Twenty years ago the Poles started learning freedom. We had no previous experience of our own. Few, no longer young by that time, carried a vague memory of freedom. Even fewer had experienced it as émigrés. That's why we so willingly invoked the past and those who returned from abroad. This, of course, was never enough. We, living here and now, had to carve that freedom into our minds and our skin.

It's easy to say, your freedom ends where someone else's begins; it's easy to say, freedom also means responsibility. And so on, and so forth. It's easy to say. Maybe we are no worse than anyone else in this respect, maybe we don't have to add this to the long list of our complexes. But we are learning freedom all the time and I don't think we have gone far beyond the rudiments. We can also suspect that learning freedom is a lesson that never ends.
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