Of Poland, Belarus, and Solidarity

By Barbara Frye

On 27 January, TOL will host a panel discussion on the state of Central and Eastern Europe's democratic revolution. Underlying the event is a worry that the zeal for exporting liberal values and practices farther east has flagged. So I was heartened to see that Poland has taken a visible role in supporting the battered opposition and civil society in Belarus. Warsaw has welcomed fleeing dissidents and is supporting independent broadcasters who transmit to its authoritarian neighbor to the east. The city also hosted a benefit concert last week that included bands from Belarus, and Poland is pushing for tougher EU measures against Minsk.

Though no one was suggesting it was on its way to autocracy, only a month or so ago lots of people were talking about Poland's detente with Russia. For that to happen, some bitter memories and suspicions had to be reined in and the notion of realpolitik had to find a place in Polish foreign affairs. That was all perfectly understandable, nothing really to condemn Warsaw about. Still, for the sake of Poland's role in "Europe's democratic revolution" - and the political prisoners in Minsk - I'm glad that those ugly memories are still fresh enough to spur action in Warsaw, where apparently the hearts of freedom fighters still beat.


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