Blinking Lights for Freedom

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.

Readers of this series are likely aware of my affection for Poland and the Polish people. Previous essays featured such Polish heroes as two-time Nobel-winning scientist Maria Sklodowska (Marie Curie), the anticommunist martyr Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the courageous undercover fighter Witold Pilecki, and science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem.

Though I have no Polish blood in me — my father was of Scots-Irish ancestry and my mother was German — I would be very proud if I did. Polish bravery in the face of invasions, occupations, and tyranny is exemplary. In recent times, Poles played a critical role in the momentous unraveling of the Soviet Empire in the 1980s. To millions of Polish freedom fighters who ushered communism into the dustbin of history nearly 30 years ago, the world owes an unending debt of gratitude.

My first of several visits to the country was in 1986. The experience left me with unforgettable memories. For seven days in November of that year, I glimpsed something of the nature and effectiveness of those who opposed the communist regime. Escorted by activists in Poland’s illegal Freedom and Peace movement, I conducted many hours of interviews in Warsaw and Krakow. What I discovered went far beyond anything I had expected.

“The people of Poland are giving us an imperishable example of courage and devotion to the values of freedom in the face of relentless opposition.” — Ronald Reagan </span…