Last night I watched Messenger of Truth (MoT), the tragic but inspiring documentary about the martyrdom of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko at the hands of Polish communists. I watched it to gain perspective on the ongoing attacks against the United States (US). These attacks have badly injured many Americans who, belatedly, are realizing that they are in a serious fight with an opposition who doesn’t fight fair in the marketplace of ideas. What does this mean exactly? MoT is worth watching not only to remember the bravery and sacrifice of Father Jerzy but also to see the recycled tricks of communism that are being seen for the first time, unfiltered and full strength, in America.
Father Jerzy gave sermons on the Bible as well as Polish nationalism, and nationalism is a good thing as compared with communism and its cousins, socialism and globalism. The communists however described these sermons as, “seances of hate,” which should sound familiar to those paying attention to the rhetoric of today’s Democrats. His sermons were re-broadcast by US-funded Radio Free Europe back into Poland where they found a large audience that, in turn, generated massive crowds at Father Jerzy’s church in Warsaw.
These crowds unnerved both Polish and Soviet communists who sent criminals to attack Polish Christians, and when that didn’t work the communists attacked them with armored vehicles with water cannons to prevent Poles from attending Catholic mass. When none of that worked, the communists resorted to physical threats. First, they murdered the teenage son of one of the women who worked with Father Jerzy, and convicted the man who drove him to the doctor while he was still alive for the murder, which is a revealing communist touch. Father Jerzy knew they were coming for him, but he wouldn’t back down – he couldn’t back down. In seminary, the communists forced him to perform military service, which was basically a lengthy punishment to get him to quit studying the word of God, but he wouldn’t. Finally, because Father Jerzy wouldn’t back down, the Polish communists murdered the Catholic priest by beating him to death. Pope John Paul II was the leader who helped spur the Polish nationalism that eventually ended communism in Poland. 21st century communists realized their error and have placed a communist as pope.
I went to graduate school at MIT with a woman from Poland, Julia, who grew up in communist Poland where they murdered priests. In some ways I was responding to communist excesses too, having grown up in California with its never-ending parade of, “each more horrible than the last,” Democrats. My critique of communism was more philosophical, distanced, and mathematical, while hers was more historical, personal, and emotional. Like Father Jerzy, she was incredibly brave, intelligent, and passionate. And like Father Jerzy, Julia – the Polish variant of Juliet – suffered a tragic fate. She was not physically murdered, but she was intellectually murdered, which may be worse because you remain alive to relive the embarrassment of having lost and remember the potential of what might have been. The fact that she was betrayed by communists in America, the purported land of freedom that helped free Poland, was particularly painful. In contrast, I was less brave – perhaps more realistic, certainly more junior – and lived to fight another day. Now I want to tell Julia’s story not just as a testament to a friend but as a lesson to today’s too-trusting and naïve Americans about the dangers of communism.