Jarosław Kaczyński has convinced Poland that it is threatened by a shadowy leftwing cabal – and become the country’s most powerful man.
In late January 1993, three years after the abolition of the Soviet-imposed Polish People’s Republic, a crowd of 5,000 demonstrators marched on the Warsaw residence of Lech Wałęsa. As the chairman of Solidarity, the independent trade union and mass opposition movement that negotiated communist Poland’s demise, Wałęsa is widely credited with initiating the chain of events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and a peaceful resolution to the cold war. But after he became post-communist Poland’s first democratically elected president, his critics circulated rumours that he had been a communist collaborator all along. Chanting “We want a president, not an agent,” the demonstrators burnt the Nobel peace prizewinner in effigy.
Their leaders included a former Solidarity functionary called Jarosław Kaczyński. Armed with a megaphone, he angrily denounced his former leader: “He was supposed to be our president, but he turned out to be their president, the president of the reds!”