Another substantial collection on the history of Radio Free Europe has been given to the Hoover Library & Archives. Andrzej Świdlicki, now living in London, has donated his collection of documents, publications, personal papers and voice recordings from the many years he spent working for RFE Polish Service broadcasting from Munich.
Born near Warsaw in 1950, Andrzej Świdlicki began his studies at the University of Warsaw in 1968, the year of student demonstrations against censorship. He was arrested and tried, but his case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Świdlicki graduated with a master’s degree in law and administration in 1972. He resisted pressure to join the ruling Communist Party, so his further academic career in Poland was effectively blocked. However, he managed to take advantage of a private invitation to receive permission to travel to England, where he enrolled in the London School of Economics and Political Science. He received a postgraduate diploma from LSE in 1977. Polish authorities refused to extend his passport so he successfully applied for permanent residency in the United Kingdom. He supported himself by writing for Polish émigré press and freelancing for the Polish section of the BBC. In 1981 Andrzej Świdlicki was offered a job with Radio Free Europe in Munich. The same year, he got married to one of his coworkers, Anna Sabbat, the daughter of Kazimierz Sabbat, prime minister and later president of Poland in exile in London. Świdlicki worked as an editor in of the daily news, and later as a supervising program editor of the Polish Service. He was a specialist on legal matters, receiving a prestigious fellowship from the British House of Commons for the writing and publication of his book on the political trials in Poland during the 1980s. He attended international human rights conferences in Bern and in Vienna, and accompanied Pope John Paul II in his foreign travels. When RFE ended broadcasting from Munich, Świdlicki and his family moved back to London where he worked as a correspondent of the Polish Press Agency and an editor of the daily news programming of the Polish section of the BBC. He also continued to write for Polish émigré press in New York and in London. Now retired, Andrzej Świdlicki is completing work on a personal history of RFE’s Polish Broadcast Service; the book will come out in Warsaw later this year under the title: Pięknoduchy, radiowcy i szpiedzy (“Dreamers, radio guys, and spies”).
Andrzej Świdlicki’s collection does not yet have a detailed guide. Most of it is divided into sections corresponding to the five successive directorships of RFE’s Polish Service, beginning with Jan Nowak-Jezioranski in 1952 and ending with Piotr Mroczyk in 1994. There are also extensive files on Polish émigré activities in Europe and the United States. Complementing paper documentation are over four hundred voice recordings. A register of these recordings is being compiled in preparation for their digitization and accessioning.
RFE Polish Broadcast Service is already extensively documented in RFE’s broadcast and corporate records’ holdings in the Hoover Archives. Among at least a dozen private collections of Polish Broadcast Service employees, Hoover has the archives of Zdzisław Najder and Marek Łatyński, whose directorships covered 1982–89, crucial years in the history of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe. The Świdlicki collection is a very significant addition to these historical sources.
Maciej Siekierski PhD
Maciej Siekierski is curator of the European Collections at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.
siekierski [at] stanford.edu