By Kate Scanlon, OSV News
WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to cast Russia as a haven of Christianity and traditional values amid his regime’s invasion of Ukraine, but nothing could be further from the truth, Marek Magierowski, Poland’s ambassador to the U.S., said during remarks on March 23.
During the Victims of Communism Museum’s annual Polish Studies Conference March 23, panelists explored the legacies of three individuals they dubbed “Knights of Liberty:” Blessed Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, St. John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. Were the late trio still pushing back against communism today, Magierowski said, they would have staunchly opposed Putin’s efforts.
Magierowski said Cardinal Wyszynski, St. John Paul II and Reagan demonstrated “perseverance” and leadership that helped bring about the fall of the Soviet Union and “crushed communism.”
“Over the years, we’ve defeated evil, but it’s proved staggeringly resilient,” Magierowski said. “Distinguished guests, nowadays, Putin’s Russia appears to be another head of the same Hydra. We need to hope and have courage.”
Putin has sought to cast his invasion as part of a “clash between his own morally unblemished nation, and the rotten, decaying West, as a fierce combat between traditional Christian values and … political correctness,” Magierowski said.
“We should not fall into this ideological and rhetorical trap,” Magierowski said, adding that were Cardinal Wyszynski, St. John Paul II and Reagan alive today, they would have “no doubt whatsoever who we are confronted with.”
Pope Francis beatified Cardinal Wyszynski (1901-1981), the primate of Poland during the communist era and mentor of St. John Paul II, on Sept. 12, 2021 — the same day that commemorates Poland’s decisive victory at the 1683 Battle of Vienna that rescued Europe from falling to the Ottoman Empire.
While the Biden administration has committed more than $31.7 billion in security assistance for Ukraine since the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion, and there has been bipartisan support for these efforts in Congress, some Republicans, especially in the House and some potential 2024 presidential candidates, have balked at this funding, arguing against providing U.S. funds to help Ukraine fend off the invasion.
At the conference in honor of Cardinal Wyszynski, St. John Paul II and Reagan, Magierowski said the three men had a huge impact on Poland’s efforts to resist a tyrannical regime.
Noting it would sound “controversial,” Magierowski said he is at peace with having lived under both communism and democracy because “I got a better grasp of good and evil.”
The three men being discussed by the panelists, Magierowski said, “understood that distinction more profoundly than a teenager growing up in a tiny hamlet.” But as the Berlin Wall was torn down and the Soviet Union disintegrated, he continued, “I became acutely aware of how lucky I was. Now not only because of all those freedoms that suddenly descended upon us, but also because I can see and appreciate the contrast, that striking divide between darkness and light.”
Other speakers at the conference sought to highlight the crucial roles Cardinal Wyszynski, St. John Paul II and Reagan each played in helping bring about the fall of communism.
George Weigel, the Polish pope’s biographer and distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said that “the driver of history” is not politics or economics, it is culture. On his pivotal visit to Poland in 1979, Weigel said, St. John Paul II sought to show this to the Polish people living under communism by bringing about a “revolution of conscience.”
“’You are not who they say you are,’” Weigel said, quoting St. John Paul II. “Permit me to remind you who you really are.”
The cultural and spiritual resistance the pontiff helped inspire in Poland, Weigel
said, were “tools of resistance that communism cannot hope to hold.”
The Victims of Communism Foundation’s museum in Washington is located near the White House and opened to the public in June 2022.