The former president of Poland, Lech Walesa, one of the icons of the fall of Communism in his country, granted an interview to the independent Cuban press in which he called on Cubans not to lose their faith and to remember that “there is no universal model of transition.”
Walesa spoke with Dagoberto Valdes, the former director of the Catholic magazine Vitral, for an interview that was to be published by the magazine. Vitral was recently forced to cease publication but this week the blog Liberpress, which Valdes directs, posted the interview.
Asked about the case of Cuba, Walesa said, “All experiences are different. There is no universal model of transition. Each country and its citizens must find their own way. Nevertheless, we must remember that the human being has the potential to change himself and his surroundings. He has the power to free himself from fear. In this context, education and civic responsibility are very important.”
“Don’t lose faith! Think about civic activities, don’t doubt that your country awaits a great redefining and that when you have the change to get involved, do so,” he added.
Walesa recalled the history of the fall of Communism in Poland and influence of the election of John Paul II as Pontiff.
“They said we didn’t have a chance because in Poland there were more than 200,000 Soviet soldiers, and around Poland more than 1 million and they had nuclear weapons. At that time we received a gift in the form of a Polish pope, who traveled to Poland one year after his election. Thousands of people attended the Mass celebrated by John Paul II.”
“The nation awakened. Small dissident groups, independent trade unions, illegal organizations like the Committee of the Defense of Workers were able to interpret this enthusiasm of the populace and direct this phenomenon towards strikes, negotiations, peaceful resistance against the regime and towards final victory. That’s how Solidarity was born,” he said.
Likewise, he pointed out that the Catholic Church and the Polish laity collaborated in the building of civil society in Poland during the Communist era. “During the entire Communist era in Poland, the role of the Church cannot be separated from certain historical events. The Church has always supported the aspirations of the nation toward freedom. When I say the Catholic Church, I refer not only to the walls of the churches, but also the hierarchy together with the laity and the Catholic faithful,” he said.
“It began with the head of the Catholic Church, who awakened the nation, gave it faith and new hope. We took advantage of that, and ten years later, we finally overcame Communism,” Walesa added.