Poland's newest (and youngest) protest group. Movement takes on issue once considered taboo: the military
Warsaw — When Jaroslaw Nakielski received his draft notice last February, he sent it back unsigned. Soon afterward, the police took him away. ``This Army serves Soviet, not Polish, goals,'' complains the 23-year-old protester, now free again.
Mr. Nakielski's bold actions and words represent the manifesto of an important new movement. Called ``Freedom and Peace,'' it tackles topics dissidents here have considered taboo: the role of the Polish Army in crushing domestic dissent and Poland's unequal alliance with the USSR.
``For the older generation, the Soviet subject was too dangerous,'' says Jacek Czaputowicz, the movement's elder statesman at age 30. ``For the young, it is not.''
The young protesters, most in their early 20s, are impatient with their elders' quiescence. Though the banned independent trade union Solidarity avoids boycotts and strikes, Freedom and Peace has in recent months organized hunger strikes, sit-ins, and petition drives. This open activity contrasts with Solidarity's penchant for secretive, underground organization.
Freedom and Peace leaders have published their names in the group's publications and accepted the consequences: prison terms. Nakielski and eight other supporters have spent much of this year in jail, either for refusing to serve in the Army or for refusing to recite the military oath because of its reference to ``brotherhood with the Soviet Army.''
The focus on the military stems from the Army's role in suppressing Solidarity in 1981. Although most Freedom and Peace activists were too young then to join the independent union, what they saw shocked them.
``Before martial law, I would have gone into the Army,'' Nakielski explains. ``Afterwards, I looked for a way to protest.''
Freedom and Peace was formally founded in March 1985 to defend a 29-year-old student who refused to take the military oath. Activists carried out a hunger strike in a Warsaw church and circulated a petition that gathered some 2,000 signatures.
Since then, the movement has grown from Warsaw to Gdansk and Krakow. One Freedom and Peace activist is Maciej Kuron, son of longtime dissident Jacek Kuron. Another is Konstantin Miodowicz, son of Communist Party Politburo member and official union leader Alfred Miodowicz.
For all its energy and appeal, Freedom and Peace is a fledgling organization. In his spacious downtown apartment, Mr. Czaputowicz estimates that the group now includes a core of 100 full-time activists and some 10,000 supporters who have signed petitions in support of those imprisoned.
They face three large obstacles: Poland boasts no pacifist tradition, the Polish Army enjoys traditional popularity as a national institution, and most Polish youth are apathetic.
``Most of my generation is tired of politics,'' Czaputowicz admits. ``They see Solidarity as a failure.''
To attract these alienated youngsters, Freedom and Peace is spreading its focus from pacifism to ecology. After last spring's Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the group assembled 2,000 people on the streets of Krakow. That represented the largest antinuclear demonstration ever held in the East bloc. Another demonstration was held this past month in Wroclaw in southwestern Poland calling for the closure of a polluting chromium plant.
``We have lots of contacts with West European Greens groups,'' Czaputowicz exclaims, exhibiting a recent statement he prepared with the West German and Dutch environmentalists. But Freedom and Peace differs on essentials from its Western counterparts. ``They downplay the threat of Soviet totalitarianism,'' says Czaputowicz, ``while we emphasize it.''
The anti-Soviet emphasis alarms Polish authorities. They cracked down on the group's leaders even while easing up on better-known Solidarity activists. Nakielski and the other draft resistors were excluded under the regime's general political amnesty in September.
In protest, the movement's supporters organized a much publicized sit-in in November in front of the Warsaw department store Centrum. A day later, Nakielski was released. Anxious to avoid new political arrests, the authorities have offered to let him avoid serving ``for health reasons.''
Nakielski refuses. ``I am well,'' he says. ``My refusal to serve is a political act.'' So two carloads of police continue to follow him, and he must appear before the court in January. If convicted, he faces three years in prison.
Solidarity leaders do not quite know what to make of these bold actions. When Czaputowicz first approached Jacek Kuron, he says Mr. Kuron told him his ideas about draft resistance were not feasible. Union leader Lech Walesa was even more outspoken.
``I was in the Army,'' he says Mr. Walesa, a former corporal, told him. ``What are you doing?''
Some distrust remains, though it is slowly fading. Walesa, Kuron, and other Solidarity leaders now have signed Freedom and Peace petitions.
``Our youth are radicalizing,'' says Bronislaw Geremek, a veteran Solidarity adviser, worriedly. ``Freedom and Peace represents the best possible result of this trend because they are nonviolent. Other young people, who think Solidarity failed, may turn to violence.''