- Vladimir Tismaneanu: What source do you use in your classroom to help students understand the events of 1989?
- Vladimir Tismaneanu: How do you teach the letters found in Adam Michnik's book?
- Vladimir Tismaneanu: How do you teach Adam Michnik's book in the classroom?
- Vladimir Tismaneanu: How do you help your students interpret the passage you read about an independent, self-governing union?
- Bradley Abrams: How do you help students make sense of 1989?
- Bradley Abrams: What sources do you use to teach 1989?
- Bradley Abrams: What else is significant about the Declaration of the Creation of Charter 77?
- Bradley Abrams: How did the regime respond to Charter 77?
- Bradley Abrams: Why is the 28th of January remarkable?
- Bradley Abrams: How do you put the anti-Charter into context for students?
- Padraic Kenney: What is remarkable about the poem and the leaflet together?
- Padraic Kenney: How should students interpret the poem?
- Padraic Kenney: What is significant about the poem?
- Padraic Kenney: Does this poem help explain the strike?
- Padraic Kenney: How do you analyze the leaflet?
- Padraic Kenney: What is significant about the leaflet?
- Padraic Kenney: What sources help us understand the strikes?
- Maria Bucur: Is there a particular source that is important to study?
- Maria Bucur: How do students study 1989 in your classroom?
- Maria Bucur: What is difficult to understand about the "Common European Home" speech?
- Maria Bucur: What is important about Ceausescu's last speech?
- Maria Bucur: How do you help students understand Ceausescu's last speech?
- Maria Bucur: What is unique about viewing Ceausescu's last speech?
- Bradley Abrams: How do you use the Charter Declaration and the anti-Charter together with students?
Vladimir Tismaneanu: What source do you use in your classroom to help students understand the events of 1989?
It’s a book by Adam Michnik, the famous Polish historian, political thinker, dissident. He is currently the editor-in-chief of Poland’s most circulated daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, and also very well known in the United States. The book is called Letters from Prison and Other Essays, and as the title says, these are some of the most important essays and articles and letters written by Adam Michnik during his several periods in jail. It’s an argument of how to oppose a violent regime. It doesn’t matter whether the communists used violence every day. It so happened that whenever challenged, they used violence.
It’s also called Letters because it includes a wonderful and deeply moving and extremely funny letter written under tragic circumstances at a certain moment when Michnik was arrested. He was, as I said, one of the leaders of Solidarity. Solidarity was legally established as an autonomous self-governing trade union in August 1980, and it was banned via the proclamation of the martial law by the communist dictatorship headed by General Wojciech Jaruzelski in December, on December 13, 1981. Michnik together with so many of his close friends and associates were arrested, and he spent three or four years in prison as a result of this.
And at a certain moment he was offered a deal by the Minister of Internal Affairs, General Czeslaw Kiszcak. The Department of the Interior is not the Department of Natural Parks in a communist regime. It’s a department dealing with the secret police. So the head of the secret police offered Michnik a free ticket to leave prison, to leave Poland and to go to France, to the Riviera. And Michnik’s response, which is a letter he penned in prison, was smuggled out of his cell and came out in many Western newspapers in the Polish underground solidarity press, in which he explained to General Kiszcak why he doesn’t accept this offer. And the last line, which as I said it’s funny and it’s enormously courageous because he was a prisoner of this particular person, the last line is something like, “And you’ll never understand, General, why I don’t accept your offer. And you know why you’ll not understand it? Very simply, because I’m a human being and you’re a pig.” And that was the last line.