US exhibition honours Polish Cold War hero
PR dla Zagranicy
The Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., is the venue of an exhibition documenting the life of Polish army colonel Ryszard Kukliński who worked for the CIA during the communist period.
The exhibition's opening on Thursday was preceded by a conference attended by former CIA liason officer David Forden, former CIA analyst Aris Pappas, and Polish Ambassador to the US Piotr Wilczek.
Forden, who acted as Kukliński’s handler from 1973 to 1978 and masterminded his escape from Poland in 1981, described Kukliński as a “fervent patriot” who decided to cooperate with the CIA because he was convinced that “in the geopolitical situation of the time the United States was the only country which was able to come to Poland’s assistance.”
Pappas said that Kukliński’s contribution cannot be overestimated bearing in mind the classified information that he passed to the CIA but also considering his role in explaining to Americans the way of thinking of Warsaw Pact strategists.
Wilczek said that it is largely thanks to the activities of Kukliński, who is often dubbed “the first Polish officer in NATO,” that all Polish Army officers are now NATO officers.
The exhibition, entitled General Kuklinski’s Mission, brings together more than 200 photographs and documents, including photocopies of documents mapping out a planned attack of Warsaw Pact countries on Western Europe.
Kukliński passed over 40,000 pages of mostly Soviet secret documents to the CIA between 1971 and 1981. Some of these described plans for the imposition of martial law in Poland.
Shortly after the declaration of martial law in December 1981, Kukliński was extracted from Poland by the CIA, along with his family. In 1984, a military court in Warsaw sentenced him to death. The sentence was annulled after the fall of communism.
Kukliński visited Poland in 1998. He died in Florida in 2004. He is buried at Warsaw’s Powązki Military Cemetery and was posthumously promoted to general. (mk/gs)