Tributes have been paid to Bronislaw Geremek, a leading thinker in Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement, who has died in a car crash. He was 76. Police say his Mercedes collided head-on with an oncoming van in western Poland after veering into the opposite lane.
Geremek was a key adviser to Lech Walesa and the Solidarity trade union. He took part in talks that led to the first partially free elections in postwar Poland and the end of one-party communist rule.
But achieving that goal involved major personal sacrifice and, like other Solidarity leaders, Geremek was jailed under martial law. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has hailed his political courage.
Poland’s Foreign Minister from 1997 to 2000, Geremek oversaw his homeland’s accession to NATO, before becoming a member of the European Parliament in 2004.
An expert in the medieval history of France, it was in French that he told EuroNews how he felt when Polish and Soviet forces drove the Nazis out of Poland in 1945. “I was happy because I had the feeling of a liberation,” he said. He went on to explain that he condemned totalitarian regimes, whether on the extreme right or left.
Geremek continued to battle for his political convictions. He clashed with Poland’s previous conservative government, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, over his refusal to declare that he had never collaborated with the communist-era secret services.