Antoni Dudek, distinguished Polish historian and political scientist, was interviewed today on the death of the last leader of the USSR - Mikhail gorbachev, who died yesterday at the age of 91.
Asked about the significance of Gorbechev for Poland's transformation to democracy and a free-market economy, Dudek said: "He played a very significant role, but one that began in 1986. It was then that he announced Perestroike, literally "reconstruction". This began a sequence of events that inclined General Jaruzelski to liberalisation and, ultimately, to the Round Table."
"His longest and most important visit to Poland was in July 1988 and his conversation with Jaruzelski has been preserved. Gorbachev said then: "Colossal changes are coming in the USSR." And it was clear this made a great impression on Jaruzelski."
"Jaruzelski replied: "Comrade Gorbachev, they tell me I should begin talks with Wałęsa, as you speak to the dissident Sacharov, but I know who is standing behind Wałęsa." It was clear that Jaruzelski was hesitating, but also that what Gorbachev was saying and doing was a strong impulse."
"Jaruzelski later created a semi-mythical version of these events, claiming that he and Gorbachev had worked together."