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A life of solidarity

THE PROPHET: The Polish historian, author and Solidarity man Karol Modzelewski was written off as a hopeless romantic in his protests against welfare cuts and privatization of the industry. When we see the developments in the political debate in recent years, his warnings seem prophetic.

Rarely, the passing of an individual marks the end of an era. Karol Modzelewski's death was one such case. The historian and one of the founders of the Polish trade union Solidarity died 28. April at a hospital in Warsaw. Unfortunately, he leaves a country ruled by a populist government that could have been prevented if Modzelewski's warnings had been followed.

Modzelewski was what philosopher Hannah Arendt would have called an actor – both a "doer" and a "sufferer" – in many of the central political movements of the last 80 years. His life could have filled at least one chapter in any book on European history.

He was born as Kirill Budniewicz in Moscow during Stalin's purge campaign, which demanded both his grandfather's. . .

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Gross is the author of Golden Harvest, among others, and is currently working on a biography of Alexander Weissberg-Cybulski. © Project Syndicate 2019

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