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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
The spy files tormenting Poland
By Julia Rooke
Producer, Poland: Spies, Secrets and Lies

Two decades after the collapse of communism, government plans to throw open the secret police archives could, say some Poles, turn into a witch hunt.

President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski
Since the twins came to power there has been a series of outings

"They said you'll die in jail, you animal, and your family will starve to death, and then I agreed to work with them."

The middle-aged man blubbers almost uncontrollably as he admits on Polish prime-time TV how he was once blackmailed by the secret police into betraying his closest friends.

"They led me like a dog on a chain, and I didn't have the courage or the strength to break free," he says.

This is Stanislaw Filosek, a leader of the opposition trade union Solidarity at the giant Lenin steel mill in the southern town of Nowa Huta. After the imposition of martial law in 1981, he and his friends went underground.

But their leader was uncovered by the police and jailed.

"I always suspected betrayal," says Mr Filosek's friend, Edward Nowak.

Outed in the press

Earlier this year Mr Nowak got permission to see his secret police file. What he discovered made his blood run cold.

The files are like dynamite and they can explode, they can ruin people's life today
Jan Molka, Solidarity activist turned informer

"It was Filosek," he says.

"A trusted friend, a regular in our house. He was being paid to inform on us. When I saw his name, I wept."

The old friends forced Mr Filosek to go public. Otherwise they say they would have outed him themselves.

It is the absence of a proper legal framework for dealing with the past that has led to a series of ugly outings.

In East Germany many informers were exposed and the majority of civil servants were purged by the West German state which stepped in to help. Poland had no such partner.

Solidarity came to power following a negotiated settlement with the communists.

Lech Walesa, Solidarity's most famous leader and former Polish president, says that although Solidarity won the 1989 elections, the ministries of the interior and defence were still in communist hands. Outing informers would have been too dangerous then.

"The communists were so strong," he adds.

"We could not start vetting people. A frontal attack on the communists would have ended tragically."

'Moral cleansing'

Two years ago, Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party came to power with a promise to morally cleanse the country and expose former collaborators.

Former Polish president Lech Walesa
Mr Walesa said Solidarity could not start vetting people

According to Wojciech Roszkowsi, a Law and Justice MEP, today people feel betrayed.

He argues that the Polish transformation was little more than a deal to divide the spoils of power unfairly between some Solidarity leaders and communists.

"The communist nomenklatura were given a chance to appropriate state assets," he says.

"The biggest fortunes were made by former military intelligence officers."

Solidarity's greatest heroes strongly deny these claims.

They in turn accuse the identical twins who now run Poland, President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, of unleashing a modern-day witch hunt to punish their political rivals.

The centrepiece of their moral cleansing campaign was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court this spring.

The proposed law demanded that people in positions of public responsibility fill in self-vetting forms or be sacked.

However, since the Kaczynski twins came to power there has been a series of informer outings in the popular press.

Persuaded to inform

Maciej Damiecki is a veteran comic actor. He stars in a long-running and much loved soap opera called the Vicarage (Plebania). This spring his world fell apart.

"A young man came to visit me," he recalls.

"He said he wanted to talk about my past as a communist informer. He had a copy of my secret police file with him. It was a terrible shock."

After 40 years, Mr Damiecki's dark secret was out. Splashed all over the newspaper were extracts from his file in which he allegedly denounced fellow thespians.

His story is familiar to those who once lived in a police state. He admits guilt and explains how back in the 1970s he had been caught drink-driving by the police.

"They proposed a deal and in return they'll give me back licence," he says.

"They began blackmailing me. They said I'll be fired from theatre unless I agreed to inform on my colleagues."

Because he was deemed "guilty", he was not allowed to see his own file. Finally he did obtain a copy and says that only two of the reports were written by him. The rest, he insists, were fabricated.

The secret police were known for their ability to sow misinformation. Yet ironically, today's government and its supporters seem to set great store by them.

Now the government - backed by most political parties - are calling for the files to be opened up to wider public scrutiny. But where will all this end?

Jan Molka is a Solidarity activist who turned informer.

He joined the secret police and was rapidly promoted, informing on his then Solidarity colleagues, among them the Kaczynski twins.

If the files are opened, he warns, Poland will go through "hell":

"The files are like dynamite and they can explode, they can ruin people's lives today," he says.

"People are frightened. They implicated millions."

Poland: Spies, Secret and Lies is on Radio 4, Wednesday 25 July, 1100 BST.

Polish Church unveils informers
27 Jun 07 |  Europe
Polish ex-spies face punishment
11 Jan 07 |  Europe

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