Polish opposition candidate defends communist past

One of the leading candidates unveiled last week by Poland’s main opposition group has defended himself from criticism over his communist past, which reportedly included spying on fellow Poles abroad and in one case reporting a colleague’s homosexuality to their superiors.

While he admits that he signed an agreement to provide information to the security services in the 1980s, Bogusław Wołoszański denies that he ever actually informed on anyone. He claims that files indicating he did have been falsified.

“I did not betray Poland nor act against Poles,” Wołoszański told the Rzeczpospolita daily today. He claims that the reason he has faced criticism since his candidacy was announced is that “PiS [the ruling Law and Justice party] wants to destroy me, like everyone who stands between them and power”.

🔴TYLKO U NAS. Bogusław #Wołoszański: Nie zdradziłem Polski, nie działałem przeciwko Polakom https://t.co/UpEOcBGwnO

— Rzeczpospolita (@rzeczpospolita) August 21, 2023

Wołoszański was last week announced by Donald Tusk, leader of the centrist Civic Coalition (KO), as one of the candidates who will head its electoral lists in October’s parliamentary elections.

The 73-year-old had previously not been directly involved in politics. He was a leading broadcaster, known in particular for programmes relating to history. The most famous, Sensacje XX wieku (Sensations of the 20th Century), has been running since 1983.

Before 1989, Wołoszański was also a member of Poland’s ruling communist party, including during the period of brutal martial law from 1981 to 1983. In 1985, he was posted to London as a correspondent. Before leaving, he signed a commitment to operate as an informant for the Polish intelligence services while there.

Bogusław Wołoszański, kontakt operacyjny „Rewo” instensywnie szkolony, często pozostawał w kontakcie z oficerem prowadzącym, szpiegował także NATO … pic.twitter.com/WToDag9HqY

— Michał Kozłowski (@mich_kozlowski) August 17, 2023

After KO announced Wołoszański as a candidate, the head of the Institute of National Remembrance – a state historical body – shared images of communist-era files relating to him and said that Wołoszański had been tasked with gathering information on the BBC and NATO, among others.

“The sensation of the 21st century is that seasoned agents of communist intelligence got bored with working behind the scenes and want to take responsibility for democracy (sic!),” wrote Karol Nawrocki, who was appointed to lead the IPN by the PiS majority in parliament.

One of PiS’s primary stated aims is to remove former communists from the positions of influence it claims they continued to hold after 1989. However, critics note that PiS has itself welcomed former communists into its ranks, including one whom it made a constitutional court judge.

Sensacją XXI wieku jest to, że wytrawni agenci komunistycznego wywiadu znudzili się pracą na zapleczu i chcą brać odpowiedzialność za demokrację (sic!). #bbcnews się ucieszy, Wielka Brytania się ucieszy, #NATO się ucieszy – to między innymi na nich agent „Rewo”/”Ben” donosił. pic.twitter.com/4RGHHNYCpv

— Karol Nawrocki (@NawrockiKn) August 17, 2023

This week, Gazeta Polska, a conservative newspaper supportive of PiS, published further extracts from files relating to Wołoszański.

They show that, in 1988, when Wołoszański was due to leave his posting in London, he was interviewed by an intelligence office about his planned replacement, who was a suspected homosexual. Wołoszański is reported to have provided detailed information about the candidate’s sexual inclinations.

Other files held by the IPN show that Wołoszański informed his superiors about the homosexuality of a BBC journalist – named by Gazeta Polska only by the initials J.E. – with whom he regularly met for lunch with the aim of obtaining information.

State broadcaster TVP – which is a government mouthpiece – says further files show that Wołoszański “repeatedly provided information about the sexual orientation of people”. He was also tasked with gathering information on British politicians.

New Netflix thriller set amid anti-gay operation in communist Poland https://t.co/1zn5OJ31Bx pic.twitter.com/9l78UZTVX7

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 20, 2021

When contracted by TVP last week – which until last week was showing re-runs of Sensacje XX wieku – Wołoszański told them that “everything being revealed now is just lies” but that he “will say nothing more” on the subject because he “is tired of it”.

On Friday, he told conservative news website wPolityce that claims he informed on British journalists or anyone else are a “load of nonsense”. He suggested that some of the files about his alleged actions may have been “fabricated” by the communist security services because “they wanted to frame me”.

Speaking to Rzeczpospolita today, Wołoszański said he had “known that lies and stupidity would be used against me”. This is part of a “ruthless political attack” by the ruling party, which seeks to “divide us and set us against each other”.

Asked about his past as an agent, Wołoszański admitted that he had signed an agreement with intelligence in order to facilitate his trip to London for professional reasons. But he added that he “did not cooperate in order to harm anyone” and “he didn’t do anything wrong towards Poland, Poles, or the English”.

Poland has removed the statute of limitations for communist crimes, many of which would have otherwise been time barred from the start of next month https://t.co/DEcpOJBIkv

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 20, 2020

Despite 34 years passing since the fall of communism in Poland, the pre-1989 period continues to regularly feature in modern politics. Some public figures have been accused of hiding their collaboration with the regime – most famously former president and Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa.

Since coming to power in 2015, PiS has launched a number of policies it says are aimed at “de-communising” Poland, a process that it claims previous governments have failed to do.

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Dawid Zuchowicz / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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