Underground Archivist Explores Hoover Collections

Friday, May 4, 2012
Professor Andrzej Paczkowski with Hoover Senior Curator Maciej Siekierski un
Professor Andrzej Paczkowski with Hoover Senior Curator Maciej Siekierski un

Andrzej Paczkowski, professor of history in the Political Studies Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and his country’s most respected authority on Communism, is in residence in the Hoover Tower during the month of May.  He is surveying and exploring Hoover’s extensive research collections on modern Poland.  Paczkowski’s historical works, some of which have been translated into English (The Black Book of Communism, and The Spring will be Ours: Poland and the Poles from Occupation to Freedom), are well known to specialists.  Much less is known about the Polish historian’s past as one of the underground archivists of “Solidarity,” the premier pro-democracy movement in all of the former Soviet Bloc, and about his important role in building Hoover’s Polish collections.

Poland during the last decade of the Soviet-imposed Communist rule was the eye of the brewing political storm, which eventually swept through East Central Europe and brought independence and democracy to most of the region.  The Polish pro-democracy movement of those years, broadly recognized under the “Solidarity” label, produced a massive number of underground periodicals and other publications.  Hoover Institution quickly became the premier collecting center of these publications, largely thanks to a clandestine network of suppliers, Andrzej Paczkowski among them.  At the risk of arrest, heavy fines, and loss of his job at the Academy of Sciences, Paczkowski and several others organized a clandestine “Solidarity Archives” which collected underground publications, testimonies, and recordings, thus preserving the basic documentation of the movement from confiscation and destruction by Communist security police.  

The efforts of “Solidarity Archives” received more direct support from Hoover after 1989, when the Polish opposition swept the Communists from power in the first open elections in the former Soviet Bloc, and Hoover Library and Archives opened its East European Acquisitions Office in Warsaw.  Directed by curator Maciej Siekierski and with the help of men like Andrzej Paczkowski, the effort gathered tons of rare and once-sensitive materials for Hoover, documenting the difficult road to independence and the successful political transformation in Poland and in the region. The two Hoover collections which owe the most to Andrzej Paczkowski’s assistance are the Polish Independent Publications Collection and the NSZZ Solidarnosc” Records.  The first includes nearly four thousand serial and monographic titles, and the second is a collection of over five hundred sound recordings of the meetings of Solidarity leadership and of its various regional and local affiliates.  The two collections are unsurpassed outside of Poland.

Hoover Library and Archives has had many visiting historians from Eastern Europe in recent years.  Some of them have enriched Hoover holdings with copies of their publications or documentation.  Andrzej Paczkowski’s contributions have no equal.