Lech Walesa: "I never collaborated"

Former Polish President Lech Walesa's new autobiography, "The Road to Truth: An Autobiography" was released in Polish bookstores last Fridays. The book contains Walesa's fervent denials that he ever served as a communist agent in the 1970s.

"The Road to Truth" is Walesa's third book.  Its release was timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of his receipt of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize. (Walesa is reported to have said he'd like to write two more books to increase his chance of winning the Nobel Prize for literature as well.)

Last June two historians came forward with claims that Walesa spied for Poland's communist secret police from 1970 to 1976, providing information on his fellow shipyard workers.

In "The Road to Truth," Walesa is reported to have written that, after his arrest in 1970, Polish authorities offered to release him from prison in exchange for his signature on some documents.

"I did not think long. I did not even read them," Walesa writes in his biography, adding that "It was a mistake that I signed anything then. Let me repeat once again, that I never signed any declaration of collaboration or any promise to be an agent."

The speculation now swirling around Walesa is similar to that troubling the reputation of Czech writer Milan Kundera, also recently accused of having spied for the former communist regime of his country.

In both cases, supporters of the two men have raised questions as to why, if these accusations are true, the Czech and Polish governments would have made no use of this information in the years of Kundera's and Walesa's dissidence, when discrediting them would have been greatly in the interest of their governments.

No easy answers are expected in either case.

English-language audiences will have to hold their judgment of Walesa's own account of his life for the time being. No information is yet available on an English translation of "The Road to Truth."

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