Obituary: Kazimierz Dziewanowski

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The Independent Culture
FOR MANY years, Mitteleuropa seemed to be little more than a lost dream, even for those who lived there. "Central Europe" consisted of little more than a memory of cakes and coffee-houses. It no longer had any political and intellectual significance of its own. Europe was generally divided into west Europe (the good guys) and east Europe (the bad guys). In those countries that found themselves on the eastern side of the barbed wire, some argued fiercely that they belonged at the heart of Europe. But they were generally ignored.

Kazimierz Dziewanowski was among those who stood for a different order. He believed that Poland and its neighbours were part of a natural European family - and should be recognised as such. He was also acknowledged to have played a key part in enabling that recognition to take place.

When Poland becomes a member of Nato next year, that it will be in no small measure because of the work done by Dziewanowski, when he was ambassador to Washington in the first years after the demise of Communism in 1989. As the former president Lech Walesa said, in reacting to news of Dziewanowski's death: "He pushed the door ajar for us into Nato; it is a great pity that he did not live to see the door fully open."

Dziewanowski was a very Polish mixture of thinker, writer and diplomat. He studied law at Warsaw University, and began his journalistic career at the weekly Swiat in 1955. He later worked for the main Warsaw daily, Zycie Warszawy, and for the weekly Literatura. He did not appear to be a dissident in the straightforward sense of confronting the regime at every turn. But he played a constantly questioning role. In the 1970s, he took part in the discussions of a group called Experience and the Future, which was highly critical of the Polish political situation of the time.

In August 1980, when the free trade union Solidarity first came into existence at the Gdansk shipyards - while Leonid Brezhnev was still alive, and five years before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power - Dziewanowski was one of the leading intellectuals who went to Gdansk to offer the dockworkers his support in achieving what had until then seemed to be the unthinkable. This linking of hands between intellectuals and workers, which had been notably lacking in previous conflicts with the authorities, was crucial for the success of the Polish revolution. The Polish revolution, in turn, played a crucial role in paving the way for the end of Communism throughout the region, nine years later.

In 1981, Dziewanowski was a co-founder, together with Tadeusz Mazowiecki - who later became eastern Europe's first non-Communist prime minister for 40 years - of the Solidarity Weekly. After the declaration of martial law in 1981, he lost his job at Literatura and publishers broke off their contracts with him.

But his influence remained strong. He was a member of the citizens' committee that was a kind of prelude to the democratically elected parliament of 1989, and a member of the round table that negotiated with the Communist authorities to bring an end to unchallenged one-party rule.

Between 1990 and 1993, he was the Polish ambassador to Washington, where he created, in Mazowiecki's words, "a respected Poland".

On his return from Washington in 1993, he became a columnist with Rzeczpospolita newspaper, where "Always on a Saturday" continued to appear right up until his death - and beyond. The last column appeared posthumously on Saturday. Kazimierz Dziewanowski was a prickly fighter for tolerance, to the very end. One of his final columns addressed a favourite theme - Polish identity in Europe. He noted that the battle for entry into Nato has already been won, and the battle for entry into the European Union is "quite advanced". He suggested that only one serious problem remained: the "discrediting of Poland in the eyes of world opinion".

This discrediting, he suggested, was not the work of foreigners - but of Poland's own xenophobes.

Kazimierz Dziewanowski, writer, journalist and diplomat: born Warsaw, Poland 7 November 1930; Polish ambassador to Washington 1990-1993; married (one daughter); died Pisz, Poland 20 August 1998.