Bronisław Geremek, historian, philosopher, politician, hero of the Solidarity movement, Minister of Foreign Affairs who in 1999 signed the treaty under which Poland joined NATO, and most recently European Parliament Deputy was honored today at the NED memorial gathering. Geremek died in a car accident on July 13, his life tragically cut after decades of work devoted to advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in Central Europe.
He once said, “If I were in the West, I would probably not be involved with politics because it is simply an exercise in power. Here in Poland, however, an intellectual must be engaged, because we’re fighting for the very right to think.” A survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and later a dissident persecuted by Poland’s communist regime, Geremek was a stalwart champion of liberty. In 1980, he was advising the workers striking in Gdańsk shipyards and helping them articulate their demands that mounted a fundamental challenge to the communist rule. Then in 1989, he participated in the Round Table negotiations that dealt the final blow to communism in Poland and triggered historic changes in the region.
Today, he was eulogized by a distinguished group of friends and colleagues, including Senator Richard Lugar, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and Democracy Paula Dobriansky, Ambassador of Poland Robert Kupiecki, Zbigniew Brzezinski of CSIS, and others. For me, a fellow Pole, he will always remain a symbol of the greatest transformation of our times.