A spy after all? Report incriminates Lech Wałęsa

New evidence has emerged that Lech Wałęsa worked as a spy for the Polish communist secret police in the 1970s. According to a report by the Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) his handwriting is clearly identifiable on secret police documents. Wałęsa claims the papers are not genuine. How tarnished is the former Solidarność leader's reputation?

Open/close all quotes
Dennik N (SK) /

No one sees the real person

It is sad that Lech Wałęsa must always be painted either black or white in Poland, Dennik N complains:

“The statements of the Polish Institute for National Remembrance, which controls the archives of the former secret police, must be seen in the context of the current government's battle against anyone who isn't on its side. ... Other interpretations see a Wałęsa who went from being a campaigner against communism to president and then surrounded himself with former communists and secret service officers. ... That's regrettable because such depictions cast real people with all their strengths and weaknesses either as undisputed heroes or complete villains. Even if Wałęsa knowingly worked with the communist secret police, there's more to his past than that. He's also the leader of the Gdańsk Shipyard strike who made a hugely valuable contribution to the introduction of free elections and the peaceful transfer of power. Playing down one aspect to highlight the other simply isn't fair.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Walęsa must display true greatness

Wałęsa should make a clean breast of his activities as informer, Bogusław Chrabota writes in Rzeczpospolita:

“Of course now, half a century later, it's easy to condemn people. It's easy to say that someone should have behaved like a hero back then and have been absolutely beyond reproach. ... But what we have to remember is that these times were extraordinarily brutal. The system had a way of making people act like criminals. ... Sure, I have my own doubts about Wałęsa. I criticise him for deliberately destroying his 'Bolek' file [Wałęsa's purported codename], as the investigation says he did. But above all I criticise him for not being able to accept reality. He simply doesn't understand that someone who is truly great ultimately isn't vulnerable to attack. ... Wałęsa has his monument - whether or not he displayed weaknesses in the past.”