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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 3, 2009
Anniversaries
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Opinion
June 3, 2009   
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Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland's first noncommunist prime minister after World War II:

We can be proud that we succeeded, but nothing is given to anyone once and for all. What we achieved has to be nurtured. We have to nurture our democratic system and our presence in Europe. That's why the current predictions that so few people will vote in the European Parliament elections are so incomprehensible, since most Poles are definitely satisfied with our presence in Europe.
-statement made on May 19 at Cracow's Wawel Castle, during a session of the Małopolska Solidarity Civic Committee marking the 20th anniversary of reforms to introduce democracy in Poland


We are in a jubilee year, but also in a year of "jubilee squabbles." One dreams of hearing a Polish-Polish statement that "we forgive and ask for forgiveness" [as in the famous 1965 letter of Polish bishops to German bishops, years later viewed as the first attempt at Polish-German reconciliation after World War II], because costs, difficulties and disputes existed and still exist, but let us overcome this factor of hostility, contempt and hatred that sometimes surfaces. You will say it's only a dream, but dreams define the direction. Twenty years ago we also had a dream, so we can have them now.

-May 8, Warsaw, during a ceremony at which Gazeta Wyborcza daily named him Man of the Last 20 Years


Rational and moral considerations required a 'thick line' to be drawn ["We draw a thick line under the past. We will only be responsible for what we have done to bring Poland out of the present state of collapse," was what Mazowiecki said in his policy speech after taking over as prime minister in 1989; he was later accused of being against squaring accounts with all those responsible for what happened under communism]. We had to decide to focus on the country's future, on what we could achieve by working together. I am convinced it was the right thing to do. We were the first in the communist bloc. If there had been any kind of provocation in Poland at the time, the 'Autumn of the Peoples' would have been seriously delayed. The peaceful transfer of power was possible thanks to cooperation with the "contract" Sejm, President Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Church, and Lech Wałęsa.

-February 2009, during a Sejm conference on the anniversary of the Round Table talks


There was plenty to consider and there is still plenty to consider. We knew it would cost us; we just didn't realize it would cost that much. We were counting on a quicker improvement in our everyday lives. The main moral problem for me was the possibility of all those great factories collapsing, which were the least efficient but at the same time were the bastion of Solidarity.

It's better to offer the proverbial fishing line to let people catch their own fish. Not everyone knew how to use that fishing line, though. That was the problem in agriculture. We thought that shutting down state farms would result in people taking over the land […]

The introduction of the democratic system began at the grassroots level, with local government reform. The international situation was changing, and we as a country were interested in Gorbachev staying in power. Who knows what would have happened if Yanayev's putsch had come sooner and been stronger.

We had to exercise greater caution than other countries as we worked to get rid of the Soviet troops stationed in our country. During the unification of Germany I was afraid that pressure would be put on Poland, that the Soviet troops would leave East Germany while the boundary of the iron curtain would remain in Poland. Today someone could say it was a delusion, but in that situation one had every right to fear that kind of danger.

We could have gone a little further and faster in reforming the ministries of the interior and defense. But we had to be careful. The PZPR [Polish United Workers' Party-the communist party] had ceased to exist, but [...] those people retained their influence.

-April 2007, at a debate entitled "How Communism Was Overthrown," held by Tygodnik Powszechny weekly
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