BETWEEN ZBIGNIEW BUJAK AND
Letter from Zbigniew Bujak, leader of the Solidarity in Poland, to Vladimir Bukovsky.
Warsaw, May 1984.
My dear Vladimir,
I just read your book And the Wind Stirs Again… It is a prodigious book. I rejoice at the thought of being able to bring it out in Poland. I would like to see you and have a conversation with you, and not only about politics. In you I found a human being who is Russian and European at the same time and your biography shows many analogies and resemblances to mine. There is one exception, however: I have not yet been in prison.
However, if one day I am locked up, the memory of the heroic combat which you have conducted “over there” will be of considerable comfort and support to me.
Often I ask myself if bolshevism is a direct descendent of the czarist autocratic traditions or if it was spontaneously generated, due to transplanting in Russia of Western European utopias, which Russian society was not able to withstand.
Your book makes it possible to go beyond the cliche which was stuck in the minds of many Poles, a cliche which says that the Russians are men with a slave mentality and, for them, bolshevism is only a natural continuity of their history.
Today, this opinion is changing. More and more, it is becoming clear that bolshevism could not be consolidated in Russia except through an interminable terror with millions of victims. The triumph of bolshevism has exacted the detraction of the whole social fabric of Russia. Your book elicits enthusiasm, because it shows that, in spite of a monstrous toll, there are still men who are ready to fight for the truth. By that, you help us to understand the Russians, whose views are close to our own, and whose combat is an integral part of our combat.
A few years back, I read Vaclav Havel’s essay entitled The Strength of the Weak. For me it was the revelation. It helped me to find my path, had an influence on my conception of things, and braced me in my activity. Reading your book has shown me that all that I have done and continue to do is only a continuance of what you have already done. Testimony like yours and Havel’s makes it possible to understand the importance of the impression made by the “Message to the Peoples of Eastern Europe” and the “Declaration on the Question of National Minorities,” adopted by the 1st Congress of the Delegates of Solidarity from all of Poland. This being the case, we have demonstrated that moral values must always be placed above everyday political calculations. Our activity is only meaningful if it aims to help man, wherever he is, in the defense of his legitimate rights.
At the moment when I am writing these lines, the combat for the liberty of Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, his wife, is joined, and I fear that their lives will be the stakes of this combat.
Andrei Sakharov may be killed, because there are so many people who need him, and because he is an example to so many, including my friends and myself. Our wish is that he will recover his liberty.
It is with this thought that I finish my letter.
I send you my best wishes for success and I hope to meet you in better days.
With all my esteem,
Answer from Vladimir Bukovsky to Zbigniew Bujak
August 14, 1984
Thank you for letting me know that my book has come out in Poland. Right now, more than ever before, I feel like a member of the Polish Resistance and I am proud of it.
I felt a somewhat similar sentiment a few years ago when I learned that someone with the same name as myself (and, perhaps, a distant relative) had voted in the Polish Diet against the state of siege. Because, in fact, we are all somewhat in the same family, if only by the similarity of our destinies, of our characters. Independent of our nationality and our age, we are all born in Budapest, went to school in Prague, reached adulthood in the Soviet concentration camps, and maturity in the Gdansk shipyards. Our experience is uninterrupted and the process in which we participate is irreversible, as the process of development of a common organization is irreversible.
It is difficult to judge the degree to which our Muscovite experience can be of practical use to you. Naturally, it is always important to know that there is a living being in the cell next to your own, but your problems, right now, are broader and more varied than those which we had to solve earlier. In today’s communist world, Poland is the only country where Resistance is really general among a whole people, and it is rather up to us now to place ourselves in your school.
In fact, all that we have succeeded in doing in a quarter century of desperate efforts is to show that, under Soviet conditions, it is possible to win morally, and still remain a human being. Above all, naturally, what is involved is a victory over one’s self because, I am deeply convinced, we always have the liberty of choice, even in prison, and no one can find a justification if he does not wish to use this liberty of choice. But is not that the beginning of everything?
Nevertheless, it is a shame that the sudden awareness by man of such a simple fact is usually considered as a proof of heroism and not as the normal reaction. Perhaps it is because of this that our successes continue always to be so modest?
And I think that this is also the reason why the prejudices and stereotypes of which you speak are so strong. Because they also are nothing more than a self-justification.
Well, each of us knows perfectly, in the depths of his soul, that communism is, above all, a self-occupation, and cannot exist without our complicity even if it is only a formal complicity.
In this regard, the Russians are neither better nor worse than the others. We were just the first to be struck, and, I think, the first to receive the hardest blow of which few people at the time could predict the consequences. Our fathers did not yet have under their eyes the examples of Kolyma and Cambodia. It took dozens of years of terror, tens of millions of individuals swallowed up by the Gulag, before we, their children, understood that great crimes begin with little compromises.
Now that I have lived in various countries in the free world, I have noticed that there is no lack of fuzzy thinkers there, that there are louses everywhere, and that every man has in himself a slave part and a master part, more slave than master generally. Only we, in the East, have already understood and have already learned many things, while in the West, they have not yet been able to do so. We are already on the road to recovery, while the free world is perhaps still slated to be subjected to this twentieth-century plague (please God that it be a minor infection). And if, for example, it is pardonable for the French communists to reassure themselves with the aid of their prejudices, while seriously believing that their French communism will be better than the examples in Poland, Cambodia, Cuba, Russia, or China (since the French are certainly more cultivated than we others, we Czechs, Vietnamese, Ethiopians, or Nicaraguans), for us, it is not at all the same.
Moreover, we will not be able to move forward until we are freed from these prejudices. I am sure that it is only by becoming aware that our combat is a shared combat that can free ourselves definitively. It is only when we are aware of this invisible front which extends from the Polish shipyards to the Afghan mountains, from the Angolan and Nicaraguan jungles to the Ethiopian desert, from the streets and squares of the occidental capitals to the camps of the Urals and to the Cuban prisons, it is only then that our victories will transcend moral victories.
This is why I consider that the “Message to the Peoples of Eastern Europe” and the “Declaration on the Question of National Minorities,” adopted by the Congress of Solidarity from all of Poland, are genuinely historic documents, which testify to the great political maturity of the Polish Resistance. It is not by chance that it is these very documents which have elicited the worst fears from the Soviet ogres, because they are quite aware of the weakest link in their chain of power.
For this same reason, a year and a half ago, we founded Resistance International, in which 26 resistance movements of various communist countries work together right now, with success. Our tasks are very complex and our objectives seem beyond reach. But more than once, we have seen that it is only by breaking through the border of the impossible that results can be attained.
Today, while more and more distressful news comes to us from Moscow, at the moment when we are beginning to think that, apart from Sakharov, nobody remains there, and while he himself is threatened with death, I often think of Adam Michnik, our mutual friend. One day in Paris, shortly entering Poland, he asked me, in all good faith: “Tell me frankly, just between us, are there many dissidents in the Soviet Union?”
“Well, let us say that there are enough there,” I answered in an evasive way.
“In Poland, there are very few, almost none,” Adam told me sadly. And, after a silence, he added: “Everybody there is so conformist.”
That happened at the end of 1977, just three years before the appearance of Solidarity and its millions of members.
This is why I think that the “better days” which you mentioned will come well before we might think possible. And then, in a free Poland, we will finally talk, you I, and not only about politics. Furthermore, this letter is not completely devoted to it either.
I wish you and your friends new successes in each year of the anniversary of Solidarity.
With all my esteem,