By Tom Quiner
It began 36 years ago.
The new Pope stepped off the airplane, kissed the Warsaw ground, and made a pronouncement: “Be not afraid.”
He spoke to his Polish countrymen.
He spoke to the world.
And he spoke to the communist government that had sucked the life out of humanity in Poland and so many other places.
The Man in White looked the ruling elite in the eyes and said, without words, something to this effect:
“We are about to go to war. You do not have a chance against the forces I am about to marshal against you.”
They were devastated. And they were afraid.
The communist government and their overlords in Moscow worked hard to suppress the schedule of the Man in White. They didn’t want Poles getting too stirred up by this guy.
Nothing seemed to work.
A million gathered to hear him say Mass at Victory Square. More came when he visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa; more still as he worked his way to Auschwitz.
By the time he made his way to the city where he had lived most of his adult life, Krakow, three million gathered to pray with him.
A blue collar worker in the throng hung on his every word. They didn’t know each other, but that would change. Lech Walesa was one of the foot soldiers unleashed by the power of prayer in nine dizzying days in Poland.
Inspired by the conviction that man is entitled to human rights, he would soon lead a shipyard strike in Gdansk that was a shot across the bow against the communist regime.
Poland was at war, but it was a strange one. One side didn’t have guns, but they had God on their side.
Strikes roiled Poland.
The economy was in the tank.
Martial law was declared.
The Catholic Church fought back with prayer, inspiring unity with rank and file Poles.
Behind the scenes, the Reagan administration worked with the Man in White in providing assistance to Lech Walesa and his Solidarity Labor Union.
The Vatican provided on-the-ground intelligence. American labor unions funneled money to Solidarity via the administration.
What a decade! So much happened. Lech Walesa was thrown in prison.
And then the war ended without a shot being fired. Elections were called and Lech Walesa was suddenly, on December 22nd, 1990, the new President of Poland.
American relations with Poland soared. It took the Obama administration to bring them to a grinding halt. They issued a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski a few years ago. In an act of raw courage, Mr. Karski, a member of the Polish underground, sneaked into a Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 and managed to escape with horrific news: the Nazis were exterminating Jews.
He pleaded for the world to listen, but they ignored him as millions of Jews were executed.
Kudos to the Obama administration for recognizing Mr. Karski’s extraordinary heroism.
But then Team Obama made a bad move: they wouldn’t let Lech Walesa accept the award in place of the late Mr. Karski.
Why? Mr. Walesa was deemed too “political.”
To compound the slight, the President Obama’s scripted speech characterized Mr. Karzi’s exploits as being “smuggled into . . . a Polish death camp” rather than a Nazi death camp.
Bad form, Mr. President.
Polish Foreign Minister, Adam Daniel Rotfeld, was livid:
“The thoughtless or intentional use of the phrase ‘Polish death camp’ is insulting and shameful. Not only does it blur responsibility for those crimes—it slanders our nation, which was the first victim of the criminal practices of Hitler’s Germany.”
Why is it that this administration repeatedly offends our friends and bows down to our enemies?
But on this day, perhaps we should simply revel in the significance of June 2nd, 1979. Poles say that is the day World War II truly ended.
That is the day that Carol Wojtyla, also known as Pope John Paul II came home.