Many people think they know which values Captain Witold Pilecki stood for. After a while of consideration, however, they admit that they didn’t read the “Witold’s Report”. They didn’t get to his words, so they don’t understand them – says Małgorzata Kupiszewska, the plenipotentiary of the GDZIE Foundation, the coordinator of the project “Rotmistrz Pilecki Bohater Niezwyciężony” [“Captain Pilecki, The Invinsible Hero”]. The organizers of the projects want the Polish people to come to know the Captain’s history, his extraordinary deeds, and to adopt the values that Witold held dear for his entire life: courage, industriousness, patriotism, comradeship, and then pass them on, to others. That would be the execution of the Captain’s will, who, as his last, farewell adage, has chosen a quote from Thomas à Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ”: I tried to live my life in such a way so that in my hour of death I would rather rejoice than fear – emphasizes the project’s coordinator, writer, and journalist, in her talk with Krzysztof Sitko.
Krzysztof Sitko: – The project „Pułkownik Kukliński Zwycięska Misja” [Colonel Kukliński Victorious Mission] was a success. What were its results? Do the Poles already know the true face of the first Polish soldier in NATO? For real?
Małgorzata Kupiszewska: – You mean the last events in the Saxon Garden in Warsaw, where the “unknown perpetrators” have splashed non-removable paint onto the exhibition dedicated to Colonel Kukliński on the eve of the Day of the Polish Army? This is, unfortunately, a coded ideological hatred. The Colonel has resisted the “empire of evil”, and this evil still resides within many people who don’t understand what did this extraordinary soldier truly achieved.
It seemed that after the unveiling of the monument in Gdynia, after the Project “Zwycięska Misja”, nothing can really disturb Colonel Kukliński’s triumphant march to the peak of glory. It turns out that it is not that simple. Is there any point to having projects like that in Poland?
– There is always a point, and it makes this point even more pronounced. We cannot give up, not until every Pole understand the intricacies of history. Our history. The Polish people have been fed lies for too long. With Jaruzelski and Kiszczak gone, the facts are beginning to see the light of the day, not only falling out of their closets…
So the mission is not over yet?
That mission is never over. It lasts over the generations. Do you remember the scene from the movie “Janek Wiśniewski padł” [“Janek Wiśniewski fell”]? His [Wiśniewski’s] colleagues carried his body of a door. The torch has been passed on. A rather cynical paraphrase of this scene was shown in the movie “Psy” [“Dogs”], where drunk SB officers [Służba Bezpieczeństwa –Security Service] carry their equally wasted colleague. It shows how easily what is sacred, what is tragic, can be turned into a laughing stock. This is how the leftist, anti-Polish propaganda has been working for years. This is how the Colonel has been treated, with people trying to relativize his accomplishments and attitude.
You have picked this torch almost from the ground. But since that last mission still goes on, what was the point of starting a new one?
– Not having finished the first one? But it’s supposed to keep going on! I believe that some school, somewhere in Poland, will soon adopt the name of Col. Ryszard Jerzy Kukliński, and that many other people will join us in commemorating this individual, in fighting the lies about our history. The idea of the project regarding Captain Witold Pilecki came up in July 2013. After meeting in Wiązowna with Zofia Pilecka-Optułowicz, the Captain’s daughter, over 400 people have signed the petition to the Commune Council. Thanks to them, one of the streets in Wiązowna bears the name of Witold Pilecki – it’s been like that for three years now. This way, Wiązowna sets up an example which other local governments follow. On 11 November of this year, two squares in the Otwock powiat – in Otwock and Karczew – will be given the patronage of Witold Pilecki.
So you have two missions going. One of them – exposing the Communists’ lies about Col. Kukliński, and in paralel to that – reminding about the national hero, sentenced by the “red lords” of the PRL [Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa – People’s Republic of Poland] to death for the truth – the first man to report the reality of the concentration camp Auschwitz, and of the mass extermination of people planned and conducted by the Germans. Is this an easier task?
– A harder one. Many people think they know which values Captain Witold Pilecki stood for. After a while of consideration, however, they admit that they didn’t read the “Witold’s Report”. On one of the “official” meetings, the lady who chaired the meeting used the argument: “we’re gonna talk about the martyrdom again”. But Pilecki was an artist, a sportsman, he loved the world, loved to joke, didn’t know how to do harm to the smallest insect. He taught his children to always tell the truth. How is this martyrdom?
Captain Pilecki and Colonel Kukliński have a lot in common: sacrificing everything – family, love, their environments’ respect, safety – for the national good. For doing that, they were dubbed traitors by the criminals and slavers bent on destroying Poland and the Polish people. Both, having risked their lives, have given themselves utterly to saving their countrymen. Not just particular individuals, but the entire nation. They were both stripped of their rank of commissioned officers and sentenced to death. The Captain was executed. Colonel Kukliński’s attitude was recognized by the Supreme Court as acting in the state of high necessity, required for saving the fatherland, only after Poland has regained its sovereignty.
Captain Pilecki, The Invinsible Hero. What is the plan for the projekt?
– The aim of Project is expressed in three words-slogans: Truth-Remembrance-Pride. More specifically, they are three imperatives: To Know–To Adopt-To Promote. The organizers want the Poles – especially the young ones – to know the Captain’s extraordinary deeds and the values he believed in his entire life.
Who are the people behind the Project?
– Me… (laughs) It’s a great question. It’s not possible to list them all here, because there are over 90 people involved. They didn’t hesitate to partake in the project: professors, artists, journalists, experts, volunteers. There are many more joining in. The Captain brings many people together.
The Project has been granted the patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda. What does it mean?
– Many people are surely bound to remember the events of 25 May 2015, when the freshly elected president Andrzej Duda, mere hours after winning the elections, showed up with beautiful flowers at the Rakowiecka St. By doing this, he has honored all those who had been tortured and murdered in the durance of the prison by the murderers wearing Polish uniforms but serving foreign powers. If the President of the High Republic pays his respect to the heroes, the organizers take it as a great honor that he also decides to give his Honorary Patronage to the Project. By doing what we do, we also pay our respect to the Captain, on the 115th anniversary of his birthday. Let me remind you – the last year, the President of the High Republic has given his Honorary Patronage to the project “Coroner Kuklinski the Victorious Mission” as well.
You have managed to get many people involved in the project. One can almost say that you have worked with a half of the Polish government. Tell me something about it.
– Many people have agreed to be the members of the Honorary Committee, but there were also some who have refused, so I think that this “half” might be an exaggeration… (laughs).
Let us disclose, who did agree?
– When an individual as distinguished as Captain Witold Pilecki is involved, it doesn’t seem right to me to start spewing out names. I’m glad that there are people who didn’t waste a while, joining the project immediately and sending their letters of support. Many words from these letters are worth remembering. Not only ministers of the government got involved, also bishops, voivodeship marshals, deputies, senators, members of local governments. I have enormous support from the local authorities of the Otwock county. You can visit the website www.rtmpilecki.com.pl to find more information – I encourage everyone to do so.
Judging from the patronage of the media, founders of the prizes: The Ministry of National Education, The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, the Bureau of National Security, the Ministry of National Defense, and those who co-fund the project: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the PZU Foundation, and the PKO BP Foundation, I can say that apparently many people want to work for Captain Pilecki… Even though he wasn’t taught about in schools, even though his name and accomplishments have been banned by the censorship for many years. For many years, the enemies of Poland tried to remove them from history – fortunately, to no avail.
How is this Project different from the other ones, also aimed at promoting the knowledge about Witold Pilecki? And what’s the goal of this next Project?
– It is, for sure, similar in showing the beauty of this man, his system of values – the strength of his body and the strength of his spirit. The narration about the Captain might be different. We did that by using breakdance during the World Youth Day at the Main Market Square in Kraków, or by contests and competitions. We will do a monodrama, a play for the youth, musical concerts, video clips, a comic book, a conference, an issue of the “Witold’s Report” in Polish and English…
But above all, the goal of our Project is to get to know the values the Captain devoted himself to. He lived and he died for Christ, for Christian values, for staying true to the Decalogue. By doing our work, we erect a metaphorical memorial to the Captain, which is our way of paying our respects to him, and the testament of remembrance for the next generations, so that they can make good choices in life.
But doesn’t this mean that the Project is a political enterprise? That PiS [Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, Law and Justice, the incumbent party in power], by using the GDZIE Foundation as its proxy, is trying to use Captain Pilecki for its own political agenda?
– Nonsense. The GDZIE Foundation from Kraków has worked many a time on various historic projects. The same people who were involved in the Project about col. Kukliński last year are also involved in the current Project. This current Project is an initiative that came from the bottom, going upwards. It was a heart’s impulse… Or actually, it came from many hearts. At the beginning, when the ministers of the government were asked by the organizers to found the prized in the contest: a literary one, a historical one, a soccer contest for kids, or the international poster contest, they were not convinced. He had to demonstrate our impartiality and capabilities. These things helped us win their favour.
The Captian always tried to bring people closer. Even in KL Auschwitz he managed to arrange an agreement between the representatives of different political parties and options. Dividing people and dwelling on quarrels never yields any good results. If we get an invitation to any TV station, we’ll show up. Because the Captain embodies the values everyone is looking for: beauty, truth, good.
The project is not only realized on the big scale, the scale of the country or even internationally. In the Otwock county there is a series of events scheduled to take place on 11 November as a commemoration of the 115th anniversary of his birth: a contest of knowledge about the Captain for the middle school students, a graphical contest for the elementary school students, we also prepare the concert “Śpiewamy dla Rotmistrza” [“We Sing for the Captain”]. Various kinds of people join in, no matter their political activity or outlook on life. We are happy with each person, each opened heart, each form of commemorating the man who fought the empire of evil.
Tell me something more about the contests. Who are the targeted groups? What are the prizes, and who founded them?
– In the literary contest for the school students, the minister of the National Education will found an interactive blackboard and a camera for the school the winner attends. The students partaking in the historical contest will compete for the financial award of the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration. The winning works from both of these contests will be also printed and published. The winners of the international poster contest will be awarded prizes in kind from the Minister of National Defence, and the PZU Foundation has founded the financial prizes: for the 1st place – 10.000 PLN, for the 2nd place – 6.000 PLN, for the 3rd place – 4.000 PLN. All these are gross values (laughs). Everyone who has a talent and submits a work prepared in accordance with our rules can take part in the international poster contest.
The footballers’ task is the easiest. They just need to score the most goals. The Minister of Sports has founded a football for the top scorer, and the Marshal of the Masovian Voivodeship – sport bags for the best goalkeeper and the defender. In the football contest, the teams compete for the cup founded by the chief of the Bureau of National Security. I asked for the biggest one possible… (laughs).
But the prizes founded by the private individuals are the most moving. The pupil of the Captain’s wife, Maria Pilecka, to whom she tended in the educational facility in Świdra after her husband’s death, has founded financial prizes for the winners of the literary contest. He lives in the USA and found out about the contest thanks to the portal Pressmania.pl. In this symbolic way, he wants to repay the debt he had made with “auntie Maria”. For good, he wants to pay with good. Recently we have received word that the Minister of the Foreign Affairs will also found the prizes for the winners of the literary and poster contests. It’s very nice, especially so because out Project has won in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ contest Wsparcie wymiaru samorządowego i obywatelskiego polskiej polityki zagranicznej – 2016 [Supporting the civic and local government aspects of the Polish foreign policy – 2016].
Indeed, the prizes and the rank of their founders are impressive. The culmination of the Project will be a conference, a concert, and decorating the winners in Belweder, right?
– First things first. On Friday 18 November, we’ll have a poster exhibition, a historic panel discussion, a play by Przemysław Tejkowski “Melduję Tobie Polsko” [“I Report To You, Poland”], Story with History in the Warsaw Uprising Museum, and the premiere of the comic book and the concert by Tomasz Trzciński. On Saturday 19 November – a Holy Mass in the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army, celebrated by Field Bishop rev. Józef Guzdek, assisted by the color guard and the Representative Choir of the Polish Army. The gala and the decoration taking place in Belweder is an award itself for all the contestants for their engagement and effort.
On Sunday, the co-organizers of the Project would like to unveil the plaque for Tomasz Sobisz, commemorating Maria Polecka nee Ostrowska, an extraordinary wife, mother, and Pole. Zofia Pilecka-Opłutowiz told us about her mom: “Like a she-wolf, she carried us in her mouth to the house of her mother”, when the Pilecki family was in danger of being sent deep into Russia, to Siberia, after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939. Young Maria fled with the children from Sukurcze to Ostrowia. She was also the one to pass the memory of her husband to the next generations, teaching his children to be honourable people.
So, as the young people say: things will get real. But how did the organizers manage to have all these people, all these patrons, invited?
– I think they just can’t refuse me… (laughs). Maybe what convinces them is my good intentions and the fact that I can be trusted, maybe they were impressed by my industriousness, or maybe I have proven that as far as the Polish people go, I will not let anything go.
And what does the Captain’s family think about the Project “Captain Pilecki, The Invinsible Hero”? Do you have their acceptance and permission?
– From the very beginning, from the moment we have received the blessing of His Excellency, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Warszawa-Praga, Marek Solarczyk, we have been discussing the Project and its consecutive stages with the representatives of the family. The great-grandson of the Captain is to be found among the jurors for the poster contest.
You also plan to publish the “Raport Rotmistrza” [“The Captain’s Report”] as a book. Why? Don’t we have enough issues of that?
. – The members of the Editorial Board – the professors: Wiesław Jan Wysocki, Jan Żaryn, Józef Brynkus, Tomasz Panfil, and also the publicists: Tadeusz Płużański and Michał Siwiec-Cielebon – will answer this question the best. There will be a Polish edition, as well as an English one – the translator is just finishing the work. There will also be a German version of the Report. Young lads from Vienna have translated it non-profit.
And you can never have enough issues of the Report, for it is truly a shocking document. Every Pole, every Polish school student, should have the opportunity to read it, to know the truth. For this reason, we want to dedicate the entire issue for the Polish schools. We think it should be at least publicly available, if not mandatory to read. The issues in foreign languages should get to Polish cultural and information centres abroad in order to let the world learn the content of the “Report” and to remind about the truth to many people who are nowadays trying to bend or warp the historic reality.
We have to ask about the money. Who is going to pay for all of this? The budget has to be huge.
– It is! But with the aid of good people, everything will be accounted for? The project is partially paid for with the funding we get from the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, the PZU Foundation, and the PKO BP Foundation.
The Pressmania.pl portal has granted its patronage to the Project „Captain Pilecki, The Invinsible Hero”. Our articles about him are even reaching people abroad. Do the other media cover the topic as extensively as well? Isn’t there a wall of aversion in the media?
– There is no wall of aversion towards Captain Pilecki in the media. Recently the Polish Press Agency has granted its media patronage to the Project?
But you are yet to be invited to TVN. “Gazeta Wyborcza” has not written a single word about the project. Doesn’t this concern you?
– No. It’s a testament to their qualities. And we’re just doing our job.
So not all the media are impartial, Captain Pilecki is not bringing everyone together?
– They are not writing about the Project yet, but they surely know by now, and one day will ask: why were there hundreds of submissions sent from all around the world to the Poster Contest about the Captain? The first work arrived just two weeks after the contest has been opened… Let them get interested, let them wonder and think about what Poland really is like…
You think that the Project „Captain Pilecki, The Invinsible Hero” will bring together even the media? Is it going to be that big of an event?
– I have said it before, but it’s worth saying it again – the Captain does bring people together, as if he was following St. Augustine: Love and do what thou wilt… From the love to people, from the love to the Fatherland. I believe that he surely will bring them together, just like the Captain knew how to do that. He was efficient, and we should try following his footsteps. The Poles should be brought together by everything that shows our national victories, everything that can be the source of the national pride.
What can I wish you with regard to that Project?
– Meeting many people who are eager to work and have open heads and hearts. Also, human kindness, and the strength to go on with the next project, with will also regard a victory of Poland and the Poles.
Thank you for the conversation.
Tłumaczył: Aleksander Panfil