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Remembering Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland’s moral compass

October 28th, 2013
04:57 PM ET

By Lucky Gold, CNN

Imagine a world where a shy, devout intellectual took on an all-seeing, all-powerful leader - and helped create Eastern Europe’s first modern democracy.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki was a journalist and activist when his native Poland was in the iron grip of soviet communism.

When Polish workers struck at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980 launching the solidarity movement, Mazowiecki joined the protests.

He became a trusted advisor to Lech Wałęsa, solidarity's charismatic leader, as the movement forced the communists to relinquish power.

In 1989, an historic parliamentary election gave solidarity seats at the table – and Mazowiecki became Eastern Europe’s first democratic prime minister, flashing a victory sign.

While hard-liners demanded the ouster of all former communists from the new government, Mazowiecki called for a "thick line" to separate its communist past from Poland’s future, allowing some former communist officials to help build the new nation.

After he left office, that same pragmatic humanity sent him to embattled Bosnia in 1992.

As a United Nations human rights envoy, he reported on the atrocities there.

And following the massacre at Srebrenica that killed over 8,000 Muslim men and boys, he resigned in protest, adding his voice to the international outrage that led to western intervention.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki died Monday, a moral compass to the end

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. K.Raj Shekar

    History will a better judge.

    October 29, 2013 at 3:28 am | Reply
    • K.Raj Shekar

      Never mimd my last comment I'm a troll!

      October 29, 2013 at 7:11 am | Reply
  2. Rufus Reeta

    Reckon we need more Men like him.

    October 29, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
  3. Luk

    Great man passed away forgotten by big world. Poland get tribute to Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Maybe he wasn't so famous as Lech Wałęsa but he was true statesman. His most important goal was strong, democratic Poland. As prime minister in 1989 he transformed Poland for market economy and opened gates of western European countries family. We haven't got what we have now without his wise policy based on cooperation also with hatred communist for peaceful changes.

    October 29, 2013 at 10:53 am | Reply
  4. Anna K.

    Yes, a great man left us.
    But, geography, people!!!!! Poland is in the very center of Europe, it is not Eastern Europe.!!!!!
    Check before you write an article!!!!!

    October 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Reply
    • Neo

      Nope. Germany is in the middle of europe, poland belongs to eastern europe!

      October 29, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Reply
      • Ann

        Um, you DO realize that a great chunk of Russia is still Europe, right? Up to the Urals. According to most measurements the geographical centre of Europe lies in Poland or even further East... in Lithuania or Belarus, but that doesn't change the fact that Germany and Poland are both Central European, along with few others – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria. All of which have "the center of Europe"of their own... 🙂

        People in Poland don't think of themselves as Eastern Europeans because they are Catholics rather than Orthodox and use Latin Alphabet and not Cyrillic. So when you ask the Poles they'll tell you Eastern Europe start East of Poland. Actually, the only time Poland was considered Eastern was when the Iron Curtain was up, I think that's actually interesting that country itself shifted westward after WWII but at the same time became "Eastern Europe".

        I'm making an educated guess here that people don't like the Eastern label because the majority thinks of Eastern countries as somehow backward, even though that's not true in most cases – it's been over twenty years, after all.

        October 29, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
      • english

        No, Poland – Europa Środowa, Niemcy – Western

        November 3, 2013 at 6:15 am |
      • jubus

        You're right. I live in eastern Poland (Lubelskie) and I consider myself an Eastern European, not Western one. Poles, Czechs, Hungarians call themselves "Central Europeans" only to distinguish themselves from the "wild East" of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Comparing Poland to Germany, Austria, Denmark, Slovakia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland is an Eastern Europe. Poland has always had links with both, Western and Eastern Europe, not everyone here is a Catholic, there is plenty of Orthodox people living in Podlaskie, so stop insult Poles.

        November 12, 2013 at 6:36 am |
  5. Andrew

    Great reply Ann !!!

    October 30, 2013 at 4:13 am | Reply
  6. Lucas

    Hello ;-). I'm living in my lovely country POLAND, and is very modern and atractive country, people in POLAND are very hard working and clever. Polish of the rapidly expanding, very soon it is no longer eastern Europe;-) Americans come here, you will see this as a lovely

    November 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Reply
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