This powerful memoir traces the life of Karol Modzelewski, one of the preeminent Polish dissidents of the twentieth century. With humor and perception, Modzelewski describes his formative years. Born in 1937 to a Polish-born mother and Russian-Jewish father in Moscow, he spent his early schooling and underwent deep indoctrination in the Soviet Union. In 1945 he moved with his mother and stepfather, a prominent communist, to Poland when his stepfather was appointed as foreign minister in Warsaw. In the relatively “liberal” Polish atmosphere, Modzelewski gradually awoke to the realities of the party system during his university years.
Modzelewski discusses the experiences and realizations that led him in 1964 to coauthor with Jacek Kuroń the famous “Open Letter to the Party,” for which he and Kuroń were imprisoned. With keen critical insight, Modzelewski describes his role as one of the leading intellectuals of the Solidarity movement.
Much more than mere autobiography, this nuanced book is a profound and highly critical analysis of Polish politics over the last fifty years. Characteristically, Modzelewski refuses to portray events in black and white terms, providing a frank assessment of the country’s evolution from communism to democracy, the genesis of Polish dissidence and its success in dismantling communism, and the causes of the current crisis of democracy in Poland.