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CIA spy Kuklinski legacy still divides Poles

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 10.02.2014 13:29
A new Polish film has prompted politicians and public figures to debate whether a colonel who defected to the US during the 1970s deserves to be honoured by his home country.

Kuklinski's Polish military ID: wikipedia

Discussions about whether Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski should be posthumously awarded Poland's highest honour, the Order of the White Eagle, or have a Warsaw street named after him, were sparked by the movie Jack Strong, which went on release on Friday.

Adam Hofman, spokesman for conservative opposition party Law and Justice, has argued that Kuklinski's defection from communist Poland was entirely justified.

“It was not a sovereign state,” he told Radio Zet.

“He did everything he could to help the nation.”

However, Gromoslaw Czempinski, who was head of Poland's now defunct UOP intelligence agency from 1993 to 1996, told the same radio station that Kuklinski was “a traitor.”

Czempinski said he refused to believe that Kuklinski was not paid by the CIA (allegedly the colonel did not accept a single dollar until being evacuated from Poland in 1981).

“For me, the most important thing was Poland, regardless of what kind of Poland that was,” Czempinski said.

“I understand that in the film he is presented as a hero, because we need heroes.

“We would like today's youth to remember Kuklinski as he is in the film, but among the people from the forces and the intelligence services, that will never be the case,” he said.

According to CIA veterans, Kuklinski sought contact with the US in 1972, appalled by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and a bloody Polish crackdown on workers in Gdynia in 1970.

However, Czempinski put forward the old allegation that Kuklinski was hired by the US in Vietnam in 1967 (Kuklinski was in Vietnam on a peace-keeping mission).

Kuklinski, working under the codename of Jack Strong, passed on thousands of classified documents to the US.

Pawel Kowal, MEP for the Poland Together party, has said that a Warsaw street named after WWII communist resistance group the People's Army (Armia Ludowa) should be renamed in Kuklinski's honour.

Kowal told the Polish Press Agency that People's Army “collaborated with the Soviet Union” whereas he described Kuklinski as “a modern-day titan, who independently and effectively confronted the Soviet empire.”

Following the premiere of Jack Strong last week, President Bronislaw Komorowski said he was considering a posthumous honour for Colonel Kuklinski. (nh)

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