Messengers of the Free Word
Paris – Prague – Warsaw, 1968–1971
Table Of Contents
- About the editors
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- A Case Involving Not Only the Tatra Mountaineers
- The Truth of the Time, the Truth of the Written Records
- The State of Historical Research
- Chapter 1 Combating the Kultura Monthly
- Chapter 2 Where, How and by Whom Were Publications of the Instytut Literacki Read in 1960s Poland?
- Chapter 3 Roots and Political Initiation of the Main Characters
- Maciej Kozłowski and Barbara Kozłowska
- Jakub Karpiński
- Krzysztof Szymborski
- Maria Tworkowska
- Małgorzata Szpakowska
- Chapter 4 Kultura Team Toward the Prague Spring
- And Its Executors
- Chapter 5 The First Successes of the Conspirators
- The First Journey to Czechoslovakia, Meeting in Cracow
- The Second Journey to Czechoslovakia. The “Paris Group”
- Couriers Maciej Włodek and Jan Kelus in Action
- The Third Journey to Czechoslovakia
- The “Paris group” Moves into Action
- Chapter 6 Mistakes and Failures of the Conspirators
- The Bulletin – Voice of the Polish 1968 Generation?
- Arrests of “Chemists” Group
- Maria Tworkowska’s Mission to Poland
- The Fourth Journey to Czechoslovakia
- Chapter 7 Surveillance, Investigations, Directing the Trial
- Who Gave the Persecuting Bodies Their Leads?
- Arrests and Directing Investigations
- Weakening Suspects
- Chapter 8 The Trial (Some Aspects)
- Preparations – Press and Radio Campaign
- The Five Accused before the Court
- Was it Worth Being Against? An Epilogue
- Press and Periodicals
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Index of persons
- Series index
Messengers of the Free Word
Paris – Prague – Warsaw, 1968–1971
Translated by Elżbieta Petrajtis-O’Neill
Bibliographic Information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in
the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic
data is available in the internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the
Library of Congress.
The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland,
and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from the International Visegrad Fund.
The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation
in Central Europe.
The cover illustration courtesy of Benjamin Ben Chaim.
ISSN 2191-3293 ∙ ISBN 978-3-631-81876-3 (Print)
E-ISBN 978-3-631-83479-4 (E-PDF) ∙ E-ISBN 978-3-631-83480-0 (EPUB)
E-ISBN 978-3-631-83481-7 (MOBI) ∙ DOI 10.3726/b17558
© Peter Lang GmbH
Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften
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Peter Lang – Berlin ∙ Bern ∙ Bruxelles ∙ New York ∙ Oxford ∙ Warszawa ∙ Wien
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This publication has been peer reviewed.
About the editors
Bartosz Kaliski PhD, born 1977, is assistant professor at The Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences. He is specialized in political history of Poland in the 20th century (especially the history of the democratic opposition against communism), the history of the Catholic church, and the Solidarity movement.
About the book
Messengers of the Free Word
The book presents an important and well known but so far not described episode in the history of banned books in the communist Poland – the activity of the so-called Tatra climbers. They were students and scholars from Warsaw, who initiated a risky cooperation with the centre of Polish political emigration in Paris – Kultura monthly. Inspired by the Prague Spring they tried to develop cooperation between the students from Eastern Bloc countries, smuggled books through the Polish-Slovak border, and gathered texts critical about communist rulers. After a few months, their activity was stopped by the Polish political police. The monograph shows the circumstances and motivations behind this dangerous activity of young people, traces the police investigation against them, and describes the mock trial in 1970.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
A Case Involving Not Only the Tatra Mountaineers
The Truth of the Time, the Truth of the Written Records
The State of Historical Research
Chapter 1 Combating the Kultura Monthly
Chapter 2 Where, How and by Whom Were Publications of the Instytut Literacki Read in 1960s Poland?
Chapter 3 Roots and Political Initiation of the Main Characters
Maciej Kozłowski and Barbara Kozłowska
Chapter 4 Kultura Team Toward the Prague Spring
Chapter 5 The First Successes of the Conspirators
The First Journey to Czechoslovakia, Meeting in Cracow
The Second Journey to Czechoslovakia. The “Paris Group”
Couriers Maciej Włodek and Jan Kelus in Action
The Third Journey to Czechoslovakia
The “Paris group” Moves into Action
Chapter 6 Mistakes and Failures of the Conspirators
The Bulletin – Voice of the Polish 1968 Generation?
Maria Tworkowska’s Mission to Poland
The Fourth Journey to Czechoslovakia
Chapter 7 Surveillance, Investigations, Directing the Trial
Who Gave the Persecuting Bodies Their Leads?
Arrests and Directing Investigations
Chapter 8 The Trial (Some Aspects)
Preparations – Press and Radio Campaign
The Five Accused before the Court
Was it Worth Being Against? An Epilogue
On February 24 1970, the Provincial Court for the city of Warsaw, after a twelve day long political trial known as the trial of the Tatra mountain-climbers sentenced the five accused young people to a rather severe and lengthy term of imprisonment; this group consisted of Maciej Kozłowski, Krzysztof Szymborski, Jakub Karpiński, Maria Tworkowska and Małgorzata Szpakowska. They were sentenced for thought-crimes: the distribution of anti-government pamphlets that were smuggled through the border and printed far abroad, in the Instytut Literacki in Maisons-Laffitte1 near Paris, frequently returning to Poland in the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe (RFE) or in the boots of cars.
The last – fourteenth – year of rule of Władysław Gomułka, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party [KC PZPR] began, coinciding with the sixteenth year of premiership of Józef Cyrankiewicz (if we include the period 1947–1952, Cyrankiewicz held the post of Prime Minister for 22 years and 6 months (!), until his dismissal in December 1970). Therefore, the communist regime in Poland seemed quite stable, at least in terms of personnel. But contemporary Polish society was changing, and this process manifested itself by sudden, mass gatherings during which people demanded observance of their rights and protested against the abuses committed by the authorities. In March 1968, the young generation, with students at its forefront, rebelled, but their protests were put down, while their participants were subjected to court and administrative repressions, which included deprivation of citizenship (Polish Jews). The Prague Spring, which brought Polish students some hope, was suppressed (by the intervention of Warsaw Pact armies in Czechoslovakia). The period between the summer of 1968 and winter of 1970/1971 – characterized by economic and cultural stagnation, and a sense of hopelessness and frustration – is not positively remembered by Poles. A deep political change was initiated only in December 1970 in the wake of the workers’ rebellion in the streets ←13 | 14→of many Polish cities, however the eventual change of the government entailed a high cost – 45 people were killed (by the army and militia’s bullets) and 1,165 wounded.
A Case Involving Not Only the Tatra Mountaineers
The case of the Tatra mountaineers (the so-called Tatra mountain-climbers’ case) is the term that was popularized mainly by Radio Free Europe in 1969 and 1970 – but it is unfortunately charged with ambiguity, or even misleading. It turns our attention to the Polish Tatra climbers, that is, the Mountaineering Club [Klub Wysokogórski] – the very milieu which tried to distance itself from the main accused, the archaeologist and journalist (and mountaineer) Maciej Kozłowski, practically from the moment of his arrest by the political police on May 26, 1969. The authorities of the Club wanted to avoid any association between his activities and the sports and tourism in which the Club engaged. Thus, we should rather talk about the case (trial) of Kozłowski and others, which marked the final stage of activities of a small group of people in Poland and abroad (who knew each other more or less) that were considered as criminal by the prosecuting bodies and the judicial system. Some of them did actually climb the mountains or even held Club membership, however they conducted their illicit activities outside Club structures, on their own, since the Club was against such ideas and actions, which it viewed as harmful for Tatra climbing.
The name Mountaineering Club first appeared in the early 1930s, when different associations of enthusiasts of the Polish mountains were merged, with the Club being formally established in 1936. Thus, the elite Polish milieu of devotees of the mountains and mountain-climbers, which before 1939 had numbered less than 200 people, got its own society. Taternik, a journal that had been in publication since 1907 (it was even published in clandestine form during World War II), was chosen as the Club’s magazine. In the Stalinist period all social independent organizations were subjected to the control of the communist party and the government apparatus. When on December 17, 1950 the authorities brought about the unification of different associations involved in tourism – including the Mountaineering Club – into the mass Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society [Polskie Towarzystwo Turystyczno-Krajoznawcze, PTTK], the Club lost its autonomy. Local societies of the Club were incorporated into PTTK branches as Tatra climbing sections, while the Club’s management board became the Tatra Climbing Commission of the Management Board of the PTTK. Paradoxically, however, the name Mountaineering Club continued to function in official ←14 | 15→documents. As was typical of the times, the so-called democratization of operation rules was conducted, while the “cult of individualism” was counteracted. Mountain climbing was intended to be a form of entertainment not for the elites, but for workers and even farmers. From 1951, so-called alpiniadas were organized in the Tatra Mountains, patterned on the Soviet model: the collective scaling of peaks, dressed up in the propagandistic terminology typical of the age (the struggle for peace, friendship between nations, etc.). In 1954, Tatra Climbing Commission of the Management Board of the PTTK was dissolved and replaced with an Alpinism Section of PTTK Management Board and Main Committee of Physical Culture [Główny Komitet Kultury Fizycznej, GKKF] with its seat in Warsaw. Tatra mountaineering was recognized as a sport and given the opportunity of further development. In December 1956, in the wake of the in-depth destalinization of the entire state, the milieu of mountain climbing devotees managed to regain a certain degree of autonomy in comparison with the time when the Club had functioned as the section of the GKKF.2 Furthermore, following a loosening of border security, the beautiful Tatra Mountains became broadly accessible to climbers and other tourists.
The Tatra mountaineers’ environment was a very special enclave within the system of state-organized sport in the Polish People’s Republic [PRL]. As Andrzej Paczkowski, the long-standing chairman of the Polish Alpinism Union [Polski Związek Alpinizmu, PZA], noted, its main advantage consisted in the fact that it grouped only a small number of people, which helped foster closer inter-personal links, and was co-educational (no division according to sexes). Highly talented climbers were given the opportunity of going to the Alps, the Caucasus, Pamir, and even to the Himalayas. Their social life concentrated around the tourist hostel at Morskie Oko, a picturesque lake at the foot of the highest part of the Tatra Mountains. The Tatra climbers’ circle was composed of well-educated members of the intelligentsia (sometimes with artistic and especially literary ambitions), coming from different generations and with different historical experiences; sometimes military men of different formations also belonged to this group. They came to the Tatra Mountains from all over Poland. All of them felt that they were better than the other, ordinary tourists,3 i.e. those who could walk only along the designated and marked trails. They were also ←15 | 16→aware of the culture-forming role of Polish Tatra mountaineering, and successive historical turns and twists did not deprive them of this awareness.4 What joined them was the memory of the outstanding and prematurely (usually tragically) deceased representatives of their milieu, such as Wawrzyniec Żuławski (1916–1957, a composer and author of mountain stories who died during a rescue operation in the Alps) or Jan Długosz (1929–1962, a writer and climbing instructor). Tatra mountaineering bonds people more strongly than other sports: since your life depends on the experience and skills of your climbing partner, as peaks are usually not reached single-handedly. Therefore, it is important who you trust to hang with you on one climbing line.
The predominant atmosphere within the Club was one of pure sporting competition (it was only after Edward Gierek came to power in 1970 that the authorities realized that alpinism was worth supporting by the state, since it could bring propaganda benefits, show Poland’s successes not only in the sport). Some climbers especially valued the sense of being separated (freed) from the restrictions inherent in the contemporary socio-political reality. Maciej Kozłowski mentioned that this milieu gathered a large number of scholars (not only humanists, but also geologists, physicists and mathematicians). The mountains made it possible to partially get away from political system, but they did not give many occasions to manifest one’s political attitudes: “Antysystemowość była raczej w sferze dowcipu, antykomunistycznych piosenek niż w sferze jakiejkolwiek działalności,” he said [An anti-systemic stance manifested itself mainly in jokes or anti-communist songs, not in any specific form of activity]. Interestingly, because members of the communist party constituted a decided minority in the Club, it proved difficult to find a sufficient number who could be appointed to perform important functions within its structures.5←16 | 17→
In the mid-1960s, when the Tatra climbers previously mentioned in the book (Kozłowski, Maciej Włodek and Andrzej Mróz) were already active in the Club, it had approximately 1,200–1,400 members in Poland;6 of these, some 200–300 were active climbers. It should be mentioned here that the Mountain Volunteer Search and Rescue Service [Górskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe, GOPR] differed in its social composition from the Club, although both circles remained intertwined and maintained day-to-day contacts. At the time, the members of the GOPR were mostly recruited from amongst the highlanders of Zakopane (the highest located town in Poland) and nearby areas. They did not belong to the intelligentsia.7 Both organizations, that is the Club and the GOPR, maintained trans-border contacts, at least with Slovakian Tatra mountaineers (Horská služba), while since the Polish thaw of 1956 – also with other similar organizations in Europe. Joint alpinist meetings were organized, as well as rescue operations. After 1956, the border in the Tatra Mountains between Poland and Czechoslovakia was no longer an obstacle – climbers used paths of their choice, thereby avoiding formalities (permits and passes), while the Polish Border Guards rarely got to the higher parts of the mountains. Thus, for experienced climbers the Tatras became a space of freedom from politics.
This is why the action by the Tatra climbers’ group following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia on the night of August 23/24, 1968 (in which the Polish Army took part) was something exceptional. They remained in the Club’s camp in the Tatra Mountains and listened angrily to the Warsaw radio broadcasts on political necessity to defend the Czechoslovak socialism. Along the popular road to Morskie Oko they painted in big letters slogans such as “Hitler, Brezhnev, Gomułka, Ulbricht, Kádár, Zhivkov,” “The Anschluss will not pass,” “Shame,” “Occupiers go home.”8 On the following day, thousands of tourists walked along the route and gazed at illicit and anonymous phrases. Until Kozłowski and his companion were arrested, it was this event that was sometimes referred to as Tatra climbers’ affair. It should be stressed that this act of protest was a unique ←17 | 18→manifestation of courage, since the young generation was still intimidated by the repressions of March 1968, while the rest of society behaved in a conformist way, was passive or even supported the intervention aimed at “defending socialism” in Czechoslovakia. This was the biggest operation in which the Polish Army had participated since World War II, and this fact was skilfully used by state propaganda).
A trainee prosecutor with the Katowice Public Prosecutor’s Office, Andrzej Tarnawski, that is, in spe, representative of the authorities, was one of the young people involved in painting the slogans. When in 1969 this fact became known (not by his fault), he did not admit to his role and was released, albeit after a long trial. His legal career was not ruined. In the following decade, he became a supporter of the democratic opposition and the Solidarity movement.
The Truth of the Time, the Truth of the Written Records
It is not easy to reconstruct facts 50 years on. The protagonists of the case do not remember everything, while the extensive documentation (which I have utilized), initially stored in the archives of the Ministry of the Interior [Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych, MSW] and subsequently taken over by the Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for Prosecuting Crimes against the Polish Nation [IPN], which includes the files of the secret operation against clandestine emissaries, code-named “Tourist” [Turysta], investigative files gathered in the criminal case, and records of court proceedings – was created not to document the past, but to be used during the political show trial.9 Thus, the myths and half-truths that came to be associated with the case of Maciej Kozłowski and others were spread primarily by the State Security Service [Służba Bezpieczeństwa, SB], and to a much lesser extent by the protagonists themselves. From the very beginning, which can be dated May 27, 1969, the Ministry of the Interior presented its own, specially constructed and tendentiously interpreted version of events, which implicated persons who were under investigation and surveillance at the time. Furthermore, by abandoning the elementary logic of cause and effect it strove to ascribe to the accused a motivation and goals which they clearly did not have and distorted this motivation and intents.←18 | 19→
The SB’s effort to impose only one acceptable interpretation of the facts of the case can already be noticed in the first official documents delivered to the desk of the Minister of the Interior, Kazimierz Świtała. On May 27, 1969, the director of Department III of the Ministry of the Interior, Colonel Henryk Piętek, notified his superior in writing that in April 1969 the secret police had received confirmed information that a group of persons cooperating with hostile centres in the capitalist West had organized the transfer of anti-communist literature through Czechoslovakia to Poland. This literature was supposed to be delivered to the academic milieu before the elections to the Parliament and to the National Councils (set for June 1, 1969). The persons allegedly involved in the incident were Maciej Kozłowski, his sister Barbara Kozłowska, Maria Tworkowska, and Andrzej Mróz. According to Piętek’s memorandum, the “hostile writings” had been transported by car to the foot of Tatra Mountains, where it was passed on to the Tatra climbers and carried by them to Poland. The same method was used to send materials to propaganda centres hostile to the PZPR. One of the mountaineers involved in the case was Maciej Włodek (the grandson of Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, a famous poet), who cooperated with komandosi gathered around Jakub Karpiński and Irena Lasota. The Director of Department III further informed that in order to prevent further such transfers, the SB had secured the state border, coordinating its activities with the Czechoslovak State Security. On May 21, 1969, a car entering Czechoslovakia from West Germany and driven by Kozłowski, with Tworkowska as a passenger, was searched. This resulted in the confiscation of publications printed by the Paris-based Kultura publishing house, which included 92 copies of the documentary volume Polskie przedwiośnie. Dokumentów marcowych t. II. Czechosłowacja (Paris 1969). On May 26, the Czechoslovak political police handed over the detainees – Kozłowski and Tworkowska – to the Polish authorities. At the Polish-Czechoslovak border, the vehicle in which they had travelled underwent a more thorough search, and the Polish secret police duly confiscated further 191 copies of publications printed by the Instytut Literacki, 406 copies of the bulletin titled Biuletyn Niecenzurowany, and drafts of various libels. Additionally, Tworkowska, so the memorandum, had in her possession a typescript of the “instruction” which she had received from Jerzy Giedroyc, the editor-in-chief of the Kultura monthly.10
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- 2020 (November)
- political opposition student movement Prague Spring Kultura monthly People‘s Poland smuggling books
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 300 pp.