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Polish president makes Reagan tribute on martial law anniversary

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 14.12.2012 06:30
President Bronislaw Komorowski laid a wreath beneath the statue of late US president Ronald Reagan in Warsaw on Thursday evening, marking the 31st anniversary of martial law in Poland.

President Komorowski at the Reaagan statue: photo - PAP/ Rafal Guz

Reagan had approved the CIA's funding of Polish dissidents during his two consecutive terms in office between 1981 and 1989.

The American leader also played a central role in creating dialogue between the West and the Soviet Union, entering into talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

When the Polish government introduced martial law on 13 December 1981, crushing dissent led by the Solidarity trade union, Reagan introduced economic sanctions against Poland.

Komorowski was among Solidarity activists interned at the time.

“We lost the battle but we won the war for Polish freedom,” he reflected earlier on Thursday, as cited by the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

After Reagan's sanctions, and with Poland's communist economy failing, Warsaw demonised the American leader, labelling him, among other tags, a “murderer” of Polish chickens, for freezing imports of chicken feed.

The Warsaw statue of Ronald Reagan was unveiled in November 2011, with donations from private individuals. Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa took part in the unveiling ceremony.

The three-metre high monument, designed by sculptor Wladyslaw Dudek, depicts the American leader making his famed 1987 speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. During the Berlin address Reagan called on Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall.”

Komorowski was accompanied yesterday by Michael Novak, American scholar and human rights activist, long standing member of the board of International Broadcasting, the private corporation that governs Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, beacons for dissidents across the Soviet bloc.

Earlier on Thursday, Novak was decorated by Komorowski with the Commander's Cross with Star of the order of Polonia Restituta, for his support of democracy in Poland.

Opposition leader calls for a "free Poland"

Meanwhile, between 4000 and 5000 people joined Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of chief Polish opposition party Law and Justice (PiS), on a march in central Warsaw.

“Today, some want to sell our independence to the West, others to the East,” Kaczynski proclaimed.

“We don't need anyone's guarantee – we are a great nation,” he said.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski (C): photo - PAP/ Jakub Kaminski

Alluding to the government's plans to introduce a bill penalising hate speech, Kaczynski called for a Poland “in which we are not dictated to on account of political correctness.”

"All honest Poles want a free Poland, even those who today have the wool pulled over their eyes by various forces.”

Drawing on the symbolic date, the PiS leader proclaimed that he is “confident that we will build a free Poland, as it happened in those great months 31 years ago.”

Kaczynski, himself a former Solidarity veteran, concluded that “there is no solidarity today,” and that “there is no Polishness without freedom.”

Among the banners in the march, slogans could be read claiming that the 2010 Smolensk air disaster (in which the PiS leader's twin brother, former president Lech Kaczynski died) was a result of sabotage.

Other banners called for “traitors to be dismissed.” (nh)

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