Page 3, 4th September 1981

4th September 1981
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Page 3, 4th September 1981 — Encounters with a country in the making

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Locations: London


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Encounters with a country in the making

Despite recent relaxations of Government control in Poland the Censor's blue pencil still forces many articles underground, to be reprinted in unofficial journals. Christopher Rails met the editor of one of them, Janusz Bazydlo.

LAST WEEK, the editor of a Polish underground journal showed me the draft of an article he was proposing to print. It had been destined for official publication, but it was covered with the marks of the censor's blue pencil, and the only way it could be digested in its entirely was to send it underground.

The rendezvous for our meeting was a house in south London. The underground journal or samizdat in question was Spotkania ( Encounters), and the editor was Janusz Bazydlo.

Bazydlo has been trying to visit England and France for the past five years. This year is the first time he has managed to obtain a visa, and he attributes this success to the current state of weakness of the Polish government in the face of opposition from the Church and from Solidarity, Poland's Tree trade onion, Born in 1941, Janusz studied contemporary Polish history at the Catholic University of Lublin. Much of the seeds of current opposition to official policy emanates from this part of Poland, which is in the far east of the country.

For the past 11 years, Bazydlo* has been one of the editors of the Catholic Encyclopaedia.and enormous undertaking which even now has only reached the D-0 volume Bazodlo is the oldest

employee on the project.

Spotkania was first published in 1977. It is one of the earliest unofficial publications in Poland, and it owes its continued existence to a sudden relaxation inthe stringency of censorship. In quality of material it compares favourably with the official Catholic quarterles. Spotkania is itself a quarterly. It is duplicated on A4 size paper from typed stencils and carries articles by important writers whose material has not passed the official censor. Its circulation is around 3,000, and the publishers have a circulation of about 5,000 for similar 'Underground' books, which are also published unofficially.

Censorship is especially severe on the Catholic press with its Wide circulation. is more liberal on the small circulation press. Even now, after so called "renewal" in Poland, said Bazydlo, the police recently raided the unofficial offices of Spotkania and confiscated many books and a great deal of paper.

The only uncensored papers are the 20 or more regional publications published by Solidarity.

I asked Bazydlo whether their lot had been made any easier with the appointment of a Polish pope. He replied that Pope John Paul's visit to Poland has resulted in the publication of all his speeches in full, including the digressions from the printed text of crucial importance to the Poles, but not formerly included. Osservatore Romano. he said, now sells 100.000 copies of its monthly edition in Polish, and it was the Pope's influence that led directly to the now regular broadcasts of Mass on television.

Of greater importance still was the sense of identity the Pope gave to Poland. The Poles realised fully their identification with Catholicism and ti igave them the impetus to press for the reforms that have now taken place. Furthermore, the wave of strikes has been without bloodshed. something unprecedented in Poland's stormy relations with the Soviet regime.

How, then. did he see the influence of Lech Walesa?

"It's hard to tell whether the movement made Lech Walesa, or Lech Walsa made the movement" said Bazydlo. Like Bazydlo himself. Walesa had started as one of many opposition activists. He had come to the fore when his leadership Was needed, and whether he was accepted or rejected in the future would not alter the fact that he has become a symbol of Polish patriotism. His famous remark: "If I was not a Christian I would be a very dangerous man" symbolised the place of Catholicism in the struggle for a a free Poland.

Bazydlo has never been on personal terms with Walesa, but on one occasion when they met Walesa said of one of Bazydlo's colleagues in SAporkania. Bogdan Borusewicz lone of the founders of the free trade union movement in Gdansk) tha it was Borusewicz who had achieved perhaps more than anyone in getting the movement off the ground.

As for Archbishop Glemp, he said he felt Glemp would con_ tinue the policies of Cardinal Wyszynski, except that he has met with the government.something Cardinal Wyszijnski would never agree to do.

I asked Bazydlo whether he thought reforms would go far enough to produce a government based on the members of Solidarity. He said it was questionable whether the party, as such, would be acceptable to prople at all. But for the bacming or the Soviet Union the Polish government would be overthrown and replaced by a democracy. Meanwhile it was just a matter of negotiating the terms under which the present System ruled the country.

But he was adamant that Russia would not invade. There had been similar situations to the present crisis in 1956. when Russia invaded Hungary, and in 1968. when it :nvaded Czechoslovakia. On neither occasion had Poland been invaded. Bazydlo attributed this to Poland's solid commitment to Catholicism. something he said was lacking in other satellite states of the USSR.

Janusz Bazydlo wants to extend the range of articles in Spotkania to incoude theological material from England and France. This was the main reason for his visit. But how long it will be before any material he finds can be published openly is a matter for speculation.

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