Hoover Library & Archives has received an addition to its Stefan Olszowski papers. Olszowski had a stellar career in communist Poland. He served as the propaganda chief of the party in the late 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. He was foreign minister twice in 1971–76 and 1982–85. In-between those terms, he served as ambassador to East Germany and acted as the party’s central committee secretary for ideology and media. In the Polish politburo he represented a hard line pro-Soviet orientation, advocating the suppression of the Solidarity independent trade union movement.
It all ended in 1985. First came Mikhail Gorbachev’s ascent to power and the removal of Andrei Gromyko, Olszowski’s Soviet counterpart in charge of foreign affairs, and his replacement with Eduard Shevardnadze. As the Soviet Union sought to repair its image in world politics, communist Poland followed suit. Second, Olszowski had a scandalous affair with a much younger woman, a journalist, and married her, after divorcing his wife of many years. The Communist Party’s first secretary, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, disciplined Olszewski for an “immoral life,” removed from politburo membership and soon after from his job as foreign minister. Before leaving the foreign ministry Olszowski used his position to help his new wife land a job at the UNESCO office in New York. Using his diplomatic passport to obtain a US visa, Olszowski left for New York in 1986; the couple and their son have been living in the New York area ever since, most recently in a Long Island community near the Hamptons. Olszowski’s departure for the United States was perhaps the only example of peaceful immigration, rather than defection, of a high-level official of the Soviet bloc. Indeed, taking place in 1986, it was a good indicator of the developments about to take place in Eastern Europe.
The additional papers, photographs, and memorabilia complement the Olszowski documentation already in the Archives, and represent a small personal fragment of Hoover’s extensive and comprehensive holdings on Poland of the 1980s, the epicenter of the peaceful revolution that led to the demise of the Soviet bloc and brought democratic and free-market reforms to the region. When in December 1981 the Jaruzelski regime declared martial law in an unsuccessful effort to suppress the Solidarity movement, two other prominent communist officials left their posts and moved to the United States, Romuald Spasowski, Poland’s ambassador in Washington, and Zdzisław Rurarz, the ambassador in Japan. A measure of the richness and the variety of holdings on Poland in the 1980s is that Hoover has recently obtained their papers as well.
Maciej Siekierski siekierski [at] stanford.edu