The announcement of a new book by Polish-American journalist Ted Lipien (Tadeusz Lipień): Hunger for Truth – Józef and Maria Czapski’s Fight Against Kremlin Propaganda. The book is expected to be published in English and in Polish in 2022.

Books by Józef Czapski and Maria Czapska.

Foreword

Hunger for Truth analyzes the contribution of two prominent Polish political exiles in the second half of the 20th century to the struggle against censorship and indoctrination in countries behind the Iron Curtain and against communist propaganda in the West. Józef Czapski i Maria Czapska—brother and sister—are known as witnesses to history and defenders of truth, but their role as ambassadors in the Western world of Polish liberalism rooted in Christian love of neighbor and in tolerant patriotism open to dialogue, also deserves a new and closer look. There is not much information on this subject in the books about them that have been published so far. Never used before American sources shed a new light on this insufficiently appreciated part of their activities in defense of Poland’s independence. In addition to bearing witness to the truth, the Czapskis were constantly looking for allies in the West in the fight for freedom not only for Poland, but for the entire Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia. I took the title of the book from my conversation in Washington in 1976 with the future Pope John Paul II, who showed how important it is for enslaved societies to fight against the falsification of history. Describing the challenges faced by Józef and Maria Czapski, I discuss how some left-wing and pro-Soviet journalists in the United States during and after the Second World War were blinded by communist propaganda. They expressed hostility towards anti-communist emigrants and were reluctant to recognize the responsibility of the USSR authorities for the Katyn massacre. They ignored mass deportations of civilians and the death of millions of innocent people—victims of the great famine in Ukraine and slave labor in the Soviet Gulag camps. However, I also write about many other American politicians, intelligence experts, diplomats, trade union leaders, intellectuals, historians, writers, and journalists whose attitudes towards Soviet Russia and communism were fundamentally different. They included both left-wing liberals and conservatives who, in response to the appeals of Józef and Maria Czapski, supported the struggle for the truth for over 50 years, culminating in Poland regaining its independence.

Introduction to Hunger for Truth

Photographs of Józef Czapski and Maria Czapska.

Józef Czapski and Maria Czapska

Józef and Maria Czapscy were direct participants in some of the most tragic events of the 20th century. The wars, Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Gulag, and communist repressions showed how easily millions of people can lose their lives and freedom as a result of propaganda spread by intellectuals, writers, and journalists, working for and supporting dictators. After the German attack on Poland on September 1, 1939, and the occupation of eastern Polish territories by the Red Army, reserve Captain Józef Czapski was a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union. He was one of the few officers of the Polish Army in Soviet captivity who avoided death at the hands of the NKVD, the secret police of the USSR. Released from the camp in 1941 after the German attack on Russia, Czapski became a witness and chronicler of the cover-up by the Soviet government of one of the greatest war crimes of the 20th century. The murders in Katyn and in other places of mass executions in Soviet Russia took the lives of thousand Polish officers. The exterminated represented Poland’s military, social and intellectual elite. Among Czapski’s fellow prisoners, who did not survive, were university professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, writers, journalists, priests of the Roman Catholic Church and clergy of other faiths. Those who perished in Katyn included several generals of the Polish Army, the chief chaplain of the Orthodox denomination Lieutenant Colonel Szymon Fedorońka, Chief Rabbi Major Baruch Steinberg, as well as one female military pilot Second-Lieutenant Janina Lewandowska.

Czapski had no doubts later that the executions of Polish military and civilian leaders were an act of genocide intended to help Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin gain control over Poland. The NKVD carried out the murders in strict secrecy on the orders of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party at a time when Hitler and Stalin were still allies. The alliance of these two dictators led to the start of the Second World War, with the attacks on Poland by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in September 1939. The two totalitarian powers divided Poland’s territory among themselves in accordance with secret clauses of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact previously signed in Moscow. When German soldiers discovered the Katyn graves in April 1943, the Soviet government denied any connection with the executions of Polish officers and blamed them on Nazi Germany.

In addition to my admiration for the humanism of Józef and Maria Czapski, I was inspired to write this book by my own experiences as a journalist. The Voice of America (VOA), the American government radio station established in 1942 to fight Nazi and Japanese propaganda, also engaged in the first years of its existence in spreading Soviet propaganda lies about Katyn. I worked for VOA much later in news reporting and management positions. Quickly dominated at the beginning of the war by sympathizers of Soviet Russia and communism, VOA for several years gave out false information about the Katyn massacre. Its leadership and journalists later claimed that they were completely convinced of the German guilt. In a secret instruction for Voice of America editors and journalists, written at the beginning of May 1943, Robert E. Sherwood, the head of overseas programs, accused Poles fighting against Germany of supporting German propaganda. He strongly objected to their suspicions about Russia in the case of Katyn. Sherwood, who was also a famous Hollywood playwright and presidential speechwriter for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had as one of his jobs working for the US government the coordination of American propaganda with Soviet propaganda.

President Roosevelt admired Joseph Stalin, but shortly after the Berlin Radio reported the discovery of the graves of Polish officers in Katyn in April 1943, he lamented Moscow’s severance of diplomatic relations with the Polish government-in-exile based in London. Stalin used as a pretext for breaking off relations the request of the Polish government headed by General Władysław Sikorski for an independent investigation by the International Red Cross of the circumstances of the Katyn massacre. Roosevelt was mostly afraid of the possibility of a separate peace between Stalin and Hitler. He also did not want to upset his plans for the post-war international security system, which he based on Stalin’s assurances about free elections and democracy in Eastern Europe. As it quickly turned out, agreements reached in secret between Roosevelt and Stalin, which changed Poland’s borders, deprived the Czapskis and hundreds of thousands of other refugees of the chance to return to their homes at the end of World War II. At the same time, these agreements condemned millions of people to life under the dictatorship of communism and Soviet hegemony.

 

Tadeusz (Ted) A. Lipien is an international media executive, journalist, writer, blogger, and press freedom advocate. He worked in or wrote about U.S. international broadcasting for over 40 years, beginning as a radio announcer for the Voice of America (VOA) in 1973 and serving as Polish Service chief during Solidarity trade union’s struggle for democracy, Acting VOA Associate Director and for a short time as President of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). His articles on U.S. international broadcasting have been published in American Diplomacy JournalNational ReviewThe Washington TimesThe Washington Examiner and Digital Journal. His views on media have been quoted by CNNNBCFOXNPRThe New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He is the author of a book, Wojtyła’s Women: How They Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Churchpublished in English and Polish about feminism and Pope John Paul II.

Be Sociable, Share!