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FROM A COMMUNIST PRISON --- 20 YEARS AGO

FROM A COMMUNIST PRISON --- 20 YEARS AGO

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Published by DAVID M .DASTYCH
My own story about three years passed in communist prisons in Poland (1987-1990).
My own story about three years passed in communist prisons in Poland (1987-1990).

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Published by: DAVID M .DASTYCH on Mar 05, 2010
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09/14/2010

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Exclusive for CFP: Back to Freedom – 20 Years AgoOn February 28, 1990 – I left a Communist prisonBy David Dastych Sunday, February 28, 2010In Barczewo Prison was kept the war criminal, Gauleiter of Ostpreußen - Erich Koch. He died in prison in 1986.With him the communists kept there the Solidarity and anti-communist leaders: Adam Michnik, Władysław Frasyniuk and Leszek Moczulski in the early 1980s.[and David M. Dastych and Professor Jozef Szaniawski, Col. R.Kuklinski’s friendand biographer, in the late 1980s.]Warsaw-Poland-February 28: It is twenty years already since I left a Communist prison in Barczewo [nicknamed “Barczewo-Hilton”] on Wednesday morning, the last day of February1990.I knew I would be conditionally released, after my 8-year sentence was reduced to 5 years by a Military Tribunal in Warsaw on January 2, 1990. But I didn’t knowexactly when I would be set free. On that ordinary weekday, my lawyer D. Krasowski, Esq., came to see me and he told me I would be called to a Military Tribunal hearing in Barczewo Penitentiary. I wasn’t sure they would release me on thatday. But the hearing lasted only 15 minutes, and I was told I was to be releasedon conditional terms immediately. Then, I had to go to a prison wardrobe to dress up and to my cell in a Special Ward to pick up my things. I asked for a permission to visit some of the co-prisoners to give them some things and to take letters from them. Then I said good-bye to the “fellow-criminals” I knew and I collected some cash from a depository, before leaving the prison for good.It was a bright, sunny day and, at first, I went to a nearby chapel to meet a monk, who helped me in my prison years. He wasn’t there, so I left some money in the chapel, I prayed briefly and I went out to take my place in my lawyer’s car.There were no cell phones at that time in Poland. But I didn’t want to call my family from a post office: my sudden come-back should be a surprise to them.I asked the lawyer to keep me company in visiting the beautiful small town of Barczewo, situated at a lake. When in prison, I never had a chance to see it, theonly view from my cell was of some trees and a high prison wall. That prison waslocated in a former monastery. I took out my cash and I went to a store to buya white shirt and a tie. To my great surprise, they were quite expensive. For several years I had no idea how much Polish money was worth, as there had been a big inflation.After a peaceful regime change in Poland and a victory of “Solidarity” in the semi-free elections of June 4,1989, I read a lot about the economy to get preparedfor my later life.PRISON POETRYSome time ago, in my cell, I wrote a little “poem” about the economic situationof Poland. In a rough English translation it runs like this:Our Poland TodayNo money, no honeyBut hopes and baloney,No sugar, no meatBut an eternal Polish wit;No vodka, no squash
 
But free computers “McIntosh”;A heap of banknotesBut no real pay –This is our Poland today.Like it? It wasn’t the only piece of poetry I wrote in prison. I also wrote thelyrics to a song about “Barczewo-Hilton” and a lot of epigrams like this one (translated from Russian):Lech Walesa in MoscowHe came to us as a guestTo sing a requiemFor dead CommunismIn the name of a living “Solidarity”In the second half of 1989, I asked the Military Court in Warsaw to grant me permission to correspond with family and friends in the United States. The permission was granted, a unique case, as I was convicted…for spying for the C.I.A. Butthe regime was over and we experienced more freedom in the special prison ward.To make some fun, I started to write letters in Polish, English and Russian, translating the ones in the foreign languages myself. The letters were then postedby my family. I wrote to my friend, Mr. Zygmunt “Ziggy” Broniarek, then a Washington D.C. correspondent of the chief Comparty daily “Trybuna Ludu.” Broniarek (still alive, over 80 now) promised me to pass some of my Russian letters to Ms.Condoleezza Rice. I invented a Russian pen-name for myself “Lev Davidovich Zek”and I pretended to be “an unknown Russian poet,” writing from a Siberian forcedlabor camp. I penned mostly short epigrams, like this one:Gorba…GorbaYou’re a Greek Zorbaor (more seriously)I remember the Afghan mountains,Flames and blood of children and widows,Bombs and missiles of Russian soldiers;Death all around…But we aren’t the aggressors, are we?I am not sure Condi Rice received my “poems” as Ziggy promised to pass them to her. But a chance to write letters to American friends gave me a “lift to heaven”and a lot of joy. On August 1,1989, an American professor of law from Washington D.C. visited me in Barczewo Prison and I handed him a report about my case andabout the conditions in Polish prisons. In 1989, there were many strikes and even riots in prisons. In Barczewo Prison, the criminals organized a strike and chose me as their “legal counsel.” That was too much for the Prison Warden and, ofcourse, he refused. I enjoyed some respect among the co-prisoners, mostly ordinary criminals with long-time sentences, up to 25 years. The policy of that timewas to put dangerous criminals into the cells of “political” prisoners, or “enemies of the state” like me, an alleged C.I.A. spy. I observed them carefully, assome of them were secret informers. I learned from them some skills and a prisonslang, and even I practiced karate with one young bandit. When in Warsaw Central Jail, I helped some talented prisoners (painters, wood-carvers etc.). They offered me their drawings, which I still keep at home (perhaps I should scan some).A COME BACKAs we drove back to Warsaw, my lawyer couldn’t drink alcohol but I had some cognac with coffee that made me happy and jovial. Poor Mr. Krasowski had to listento my prison stories, jokes and songs.We came to my family house in the late afternoon. My old Mother almost had a hea
 
rt-attack of joy! I had to stay with her and talk to her until she went to sleep. Then my Khmer girl-friend came to see me with her two sons and we were all toohappy. The whole night, I drank Suntory Whiskey with my Japanese brother-in-law, Teruo, who was very curious about my experience. He knew I was also made a “Japanese spy” by the secret police, which was a big lie and provocation. My sisterHalina made some good food, Polish and Japanese, and the night passed quickly.The next morning, on March 1, 1990, I woke up ready to perform my “normal” prison chores. For some time yet, I couldn’t get accustomed to freedom. I went to a Police (militia) station to register as a conditionally released “criminal” and then I visited a passport office and I asked for a Polish passport, of which I was deprived for 14 years by the Communist special services. It was a great fun: Ihad to fill in a passport form and I wrote with certain pride when and for whatfor I was convicted. To my great surprise, I received my passport in just a fewdays.FINDING A HOMEIn 1988, when I was imprisoned, I divorced my wife to protect her and my two children – Olaf (son) and Natalia (daughter). My wife, who was a journalist and editor-in-chief of a women’s weekly paper, met Raisa, the wife of Mikhail Gorbachev, to ask for help. Nothing happened then, of course. Only one foreign country, Israel, issued a note to the Polish Foreign Ministry inquiring about me. The U.S.Government did nothing to protect me, therefore, later on, in Brussels, I met aCIA diplomat to end my services for The Company. I didn’t ask for money or protection or for anything else, as I worked on my own and it was a voluntary service. I also wrote to the Prime Minister of Japan, dismissing an allegation that Iserved to his intelligence agency (I was accused of that). He never replied butsoon I got a well-paid job with Asahi-TV as a co-producer of a documentary aboutthe changes in Poland. I also wrote for a big Japanese magazine about the economic reforms, led by Professor L. Balcerowicz.But I had no permanent job, no housing (I left my large apartment to the formerwife and children). I used to stay with my old Father and with my girl-friend, traveling often and doing some business. Soon I registered my own small enterprise, called “Dastych Trading Co.” and I made good use of the economic freedom in Poland to earn money.CELEBRATING FREEDOM IN BERLINMy first trip abroad, after a dozen or more years, was to Berlin, already united. I went there by plane from Warsaw, incidentally meeting on board a former journalist colleague, the late Mr. M. Rakowski, who was a Prime Minister of Poland in the 1980s, and then the last First Secretary of the PUWP (the Communist party), which he “laid to rest.” We chatted in a friendly fashion, and I learned thatmy letter from the Warsaw Central Prison never reached him. In Berlin I had to go through the fallen Wall and I installed myself in one of the expensive hotels.From there I phoned to family and friends all over the world, from Germany to Australia and the U.S.A. and I wrote many letters to politicians, MPs and other people. Later on the Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl sent me a thank-you note via the Embassy with thanks for my part in the re-unification of Germany. Well, this part was a tiny one, as the main thanks they owed was to Mikhail Gorbachev.In Berlin I visited good restaurants, theaters and clubs, and also the places near the Wall, where I was earlier on the Eastern side many times, since 1961, with no chance to cross over to West Berlin. That was sad.Later on I also went to Moscow, where nobody wanted to arrest me but friends accepted me with typical Russian cordiality and a lot of vodka. I also became a travel-guide to tour Europe, and then Asia on low cost. In the 1990s, I went to China to trade and this was a really good choice. I was also in Israel, meeting myclose friend, a nuclear physicist, the late Mr. Shalheveth Freier (also a former

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