Related topics

U.S. Poles Cheer Solidarity Prime Minister, But Are Wary of Future With PM-Poland, Bjt

August 19, 1989

CHICAGO (AP) _ Polish immigrants celebrated the news that a Solidarity activist had been named prime minister, but like their compatriots back home were wary of the intentions of the Polish communist authorities.

″From what we know of the communists, they don’t give up power without a struggle,″ said Marian Prusek, who owns a travel agency in the Polish community on Chicago’s northwest side. ″But now we need to know what form that struggle will take - will it be in the parliament?″

Capping a season of dramatic change in Poland, journalist Tadeusz Mazowiecki said Friday that President Wojciech Jaruzelski had chosen him to lead the Eastern bloc’s first non-communist government.

Chicago Alderman Roman Pucinski said the announcement, by the man who led the martial law crackdown on Solidarity 8 1/2 years ago, indicates the determination of the Polish people to have democracy.

″They have a one thousand year history of fighting for human rights and human dignity and freedom,″ said Pucinski, a leading figure in Chicago’s Polish-American community. ″And so the eight years that have elapsed were but a slight interval in Poland’s continuing struggle for freedom.″

Polish nationals in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Hamtramck, Mich., and New York cast absentee ballots in the June parliamentary elections, the first in the Soviet bloc since just after World War II in which voters could select non-Communist candidates.

Of the 5,000 people who voted at the Polish Consulate in Chicago, which has the largest Polish community outside of Poland, 95 percent supported candidates backed by the Solidarity free trade union.

Poles interviewed Friday expressed surprise at the rapid pace of change in their homeland. At this time last year Solidarity was illegal.

″The changes in Poland have come around so fast that no one could have predicted one year ago, or even six months ago, that it would come to pass,″ said Kazimierz Olejarczyk, vice president of the Polish-American Congress in Hamtramck.

Mazowiecki, a Catholic activist and journalist who spent time in jail for his anti-government activities, will have to convince Poles to make huge sacrifices in coming months if he wants to succeed and get Poland’s economy back on track, said Mira Puacz, owner of a Polish-language bookstore in Chicago.

Wlodzimierz Dziubek, who moved to Chicago from Warsaw four years ago, said he feared things in Poland would get worse.

″It’ll be a repeat of ’80 and ’81,″ Dziubek said, referring to the imposition of martial law in December 1981 that ended a 16-month period after its creation in which Solidarity flourished.

Dziubek, noting Poland’s sad history of failed reforms, said he would not go home.

″How many times have they said in Poland that they’ll change and there’ll be democratization? ’56, ’70, ’80 - this is the fourth time.″

While some people expressed fear of the Soviet Union’s reaction to a non- communist government in Poland, Pucinski said Soviet intervention is unlikely.

″The winds of change are just too strong,″ Pucinski said. ″I think it’s too late. It’s too late for the Soviet Union to react in any forceful way.″

Considering the dire state of the Polish economy, the communists may have no choice but to give Solidarity a chance to put things right, Ms. Puacz said.

″Poland is devastated economically,″ she said. ″If they want to get out of the crisis, they need some kind of change.″

Update hourly