Poland’s first post-communist president, Lech Wałęsa, has denied allegations that he was secretly a communist spy and has called for a public debate so he can respond to his critics. In 1980, when Poland was still under communist rule, Wałęsa was among the founders of Solidarność (Solidarity), the communist bloc’s first independent trade union. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, Wałęsa intensified his criticism of Poland’s communist government. In 1990, following the end of communist rule, Wałęsa, was elected Poland’s president by receiving nearly 75% of the vote in a nationwide election. After stepping down from the presidency, in 1995, Wałęsa officially retired from politics and is today considered a major Polish and Eastern European statesman.
But in 2008, two Polish historians, Sławomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, published a book claiming that, before founding Solidarność, Wałęsa was a paid collaborator of the SB, Poland’s communist-era Security Service. In the book, titled Secret services and Lech Walesa: A Contribution to the Biography, the two historians claim there is “compelling evidence” and “positive proof” that Wałęsa worked as a paid informant for the SB between 1970 and 1976, under the cover name “Bolek”. Wałęsa claimed that the documents unearthed by the two historians had been forged by Poland’s communist government in order to discredit him in the eyes of his fellow-workers during his Solidarność campaign. But the critics insisted, and in 2009 a new book, written by Polish historian Paweł Zyzak, echoed Cenckiewicz and Gontarczyk’s allegations. Citing sources “that prefer to remain anonymous”, the book, titled Lech Walesa: Idea and History, claimed that Wałęsa fathered an illegitimate child and collaborated with the SB in the 1970s. Like Cenckiewicz and Gontarczyk, Zyzak worked at the time for the Warsaw-based Polish Institute of National Remembrance (INP), which also published his book. The INP is a government-affiliated organization whose main mission is to investigate, expose and indict participants in criminal actions during the Nazi occupation of Poland, as well as during the country’s communist period. It also aims to expose SB clandestine agents and collaborators.
This past Monday, Poland’s former president published an open letter on his personal blog, in which he asked for a “substantive public debate on the Bolek imbroglio”. He said he wanted to end this controversy once and for all, by facing his critics before the public. Wałęsa added he had “had enough” of the “constant stalking” he faced by “both traditional media and Internet publications”. He went on to say that he had already asked the INP to host a public meeting with authors and historians, including his critics, in which he would participate. Later on Monday, the INP confirmed it had received a letter from Wałęsa, in which the former president asked for the opportunity to participate in a public meeting about the “Bolek affair”. Cenckiewicz, who co-authored the 2008 book on Wałęsa with Gontarczyk, reportedly wrote on Facebook that he would agree to participate in such a debate. The INP said it would plan to host the debate in March of this year.