December 1, 2022
Good afternoon. It is an honor to address you today and mark the 40th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Temporary Coordination Commission of Solidarity.
And it is an even higher honor to do so with Speaker Borusewicz, one of the key leaders of the anticommunist opposition. Thank you, Speaker Borusewicz, the European Solidarity Center, and the University of Gdansk for organizing this important event.
I would like to start by expressing my deep condolences for the two Polish citizens who lost their lives in the missile explosion in Southern Poland. While the preliminary assessment of the Polish government is that this was an accident and not a deliberate Russian strike, there is no doubt that this never would have happened if Russia were not continuing its brutal, unjustified further attacks on Ukraine..
After the tragic incident, the United States and Poland stood shoulder-to-shoulder. Our top leaders immediately and closely coordinated our response and expressed our solid commitment as Allies.
This reminds us that for hundreds of years, America and Poland have been linked together in the struggle for freedom. And that Poland has been an example and leader in the fight for democracy.
It was Polish Patriots Kazimierz Pułaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko who fought for freedom on both sides of the Atlantic. Kościuszko’s fortifications at Fort Ticonderoga and West Point were critical to America’s independence.
Kościuszko’s words became forever rooted in our shared history of sacrifice, “Za naszą i waszą wolność.” For our freedom and yours. The sacrifice for the cause of American freedom and later the sacrifice for the cause of Polish freedom.
A little over two hundred years later, in the triumph over Soviet totalitarianism, we again witnessed that America and Poland were linked and working together.
Here one has to emphasize the spiritual role of Pope John Paul II in supporting the victory over communism. It was he, more than any other single leader, who led the way to freedom.
His visit to Poland as Pope in 1979 helped lift people’s spirts and courage and inspire the Solidarity movement. In the movement, Poland showed the courage to fight back in response to the imposition of Martial Law in late 1981.
The name of the Solidarity movement had great symbolic importance. My father, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, understood this very well. He wrote that the goal of totalitarian rule is to make each individual believe he is facing the system alone, the very opposite of Solidarity.
I was by my father’s elbow in the 1970s when he helped shape U.S. foreign policy to take a strong stand together with the Catholic Church in support of Polish freedom from Soviet control. My father understood that Poland, in the unity of its people, was the greatest challenge to Soviet control of Central and Eastern Europe and that opposition to Russia has always been a part of Poland’s history.
The establishment of the TKK on April 22, 1982, was one of the key milestones in Poland’s struggle for freedom and the movement.
President Ronald Reagan rallied the United States to stand in solidarity with our friends in Poland, noting the Polish cause was our cause. There was an upsurge of “country in danger” impulses, personalized packages sent directly from the U.S. to Poland.
Every package was a strike for freedom, and it kept the lifeline going.
As President Biden said when he visited Poland in March this year, we’re all grateful in America and around the world for what Solidarity set into motion. Solidarity, the mass movement for democracy in Poland, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of communism in Central Europe and the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War.
In short, the victory of Solidarity changed the course of world history.
Speaker Borusewicz, as one of the key leaders of the opposition to Communist totalitarianism, is an inspiration to us all. It’s hard to imagine the courage needed to spend years in hiding and make so many personal sacrifices.
The stories of Pułaski, Kościuszko, and the Solidarity movement reflect the courage and spirt of the Polish people.
Today, no one should be surprised at the response of the Polish people welcoming millions of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s brutal war. No one should be surprised that Poland is at the forefront of the world’s support for Ukraine.
As we honor the TKK and embrace the values and principles the TKK stood for, we should reflect that the same courage and fighting spirit is being shown everyday by Ukrainians defending their country.
By taking up the responsibility to give our unwavering support to a free and independent Ukraine, we continue the TKK’s legacy. We continue the legacy of Americans and Poles saying, “Za naszą i waszą wolność.”