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15 October 2004

My comment on the article […] abuse scandal tarnishes John Paul II’s sainthood by Philip Willan in The Times, 16 November 2020. I posted the text around 1 am. It was held until late morning when it was finally allowed to appear. Top picture, full text of the comment.


Lech S Borkowski comment in The Times 16 November 2020
Lech S Borkowski, comment in The Times 16 November 2020
LS Borkowski comment in The Times 16 November 2020
Lech S Borkowski’s comment was held by The Times from around 1 am to at least late morning, 16 November 2020

There are also other problems with John Paul II, which are outside the scope of this article and which have never received any scrutiny.

The article mentions George Weigel, the hagiographer of John Paul II. In the article Pope John Paul II’s Soviet Spy in the Wall Street Journal on 14 May 2020 he claimed:

“Students of the Cold War’s dark arts know that Communist intelligence services deeply penetrated the Vatican in the 1970s. Yet few know that Pope John Paul II, whose centenary will be marked on May 18, had his own secret agent in the Soviet Union during the 1980s.”

John Paul II celebrated the 26th anniversary of his pontificate in 2004. There was only one event devoted to this celebration: the Red Army Choir’s concert in the Vatican on 15 October 2004, broadcast on Russian and Italian tv. The last song of the evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the First Division of the future Polish Communist army, formed in the Soviet Union in 1943. Curiously enough, no one in the media commented on the “Oka” song.

Red Army Choir performing in the Vatican on 15 October 2004
Red Army Choir performing in the Vatican on 15 October 2004

The keywords of that article’s title: “pope John Paul II” and “Soviet spy” indeed seem to be accurate, but not in the way most people would expect.

The speed with which JPII was canonised was more likely due to an intervention of quite an earthly force and the problems described in the article, while very bad indeed, are not the only ones.

@LechSBorkowski

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Vatican in the Shadow of the Red Star

My comment on the article Pope Francis ‘naive’ in deal with China to name bishops by Tom Kington and Didi Tang in The Times, 19 September 2020. Polish translation: Czerwona gwiazda nad Watykanem.


This is nothing new in the Vatican. Earlier popes appeased Communists in Eastern Europe in a similar way. It was done under the banner of ‘normalization’. It is worth reading “Memoirs” of Jozsef Mindszenty, the Hungarian cardinal who never bowed to the Communists. He described how the Communist regime was taking over the control over the Catholic Church in Hungary after WWII. Something very similar was done in other Communist countries.

Mindszenty was eventually stripped of his cardinal dignity for his resistance to Communist rule by pope Paul VI himself. Shocking and disgusting, if you ask me. Cardinal Casaroli was then making rounds between Rome and Communist capitals in Eastern Europe and making deals with them, sealing the Communist control of the church affairs.

The election of Karol Wojtyła from Poland as pope John Paul II in 1978 extended direct Communist control to the Vatican. Wojtyła was not opposing Communists. He was working with them and for them. Otherwise he would be eliminated early on.

Later, the legend of Wojtyła’s opposition to Communism was fabricated. Utter nonsense. John Paul II celebrated the 26th anniversary of his pontificate with a Red Army Choir’s concert in the Paul VI auditorium in the Vatican on October 15, 2004. The last song performed that evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the Communist First Division formed in the Soviet Union in 1943. The concert was broadcast on tv to Italy and Russia. BBC and some other media reported on the concert, but nobody expressed any surprise or feelings of unease over the concert. The “Oka” song was not mentioned publicly as well. The Italian announcer introduced it simply as a ‘Polish song’.

The subsequent turbo-propelled extra quick canonization of John Paul II is not a result of divine interventions. It was his Communist comrades who did the job. A posthumous life achievement award for his services.

Polish émigré writer Józef Mackiewicz wrote a book entitled “Vatican Under the Shadow of the Red Star”, Watykan w Cieniu Czerwonej Gwiazdy, in the 1970s. I don’t think there is an English translation of it though.

@LechSBorkowski

  • József Cardinal Mindszenty, Memoirs, New York: Macmillan (1974)
  • Józef Mackiewicz, Watykan w Cieniu Czerwonej Gwiazdy.
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The Trabant of a mass

My comment on LGBT protest upstages Duda’s swearing-in as Polish president by Oliver Moody in The Times, 6 August 2020.


My report from Poland on that day would be completely different.

I would first note that the day before, on August 5, the Polsat News tv channel broadcast an advertisement for a model kit of the Trabant, the car of the East German Communist regime. I posted a copy of the ad on my Tweeter feed. You can buy your child a little toy symbolic of the totalitarian regime to play with. This is nothing unusual in Poland, as you might notice at gas stations, at other shops, or at the Warsaw airport, where you can buy models of other Communist cars as well. This link with the Communist past is not accidental. It signifies a real and present continuation of Communism, which is carefully masked by a pseudo-democratic spectacle.

The Trabant model kit advertised on Polish Polsat News tv channel, 5 August 2020
The Trabant model kit advertised on Polish Polsat News tv channel, 5 August 2020

The next day, on August 6, the same Polsat News channel, along with other stations, broadcast live the entire holy mass at noon, celebrating the inauguration of Duda’s second term in office. Religious ceremonies have been integrated into the state choreography over the past thirty years in a way similar to post-1990 Russia. As a tool of the state, a way to conquer history and ideas.

Polsat News, Warsaw, Poland, 6 August 2020. Live broadcast of the Catholic mass on the day of the presidential inauguration
Polsat News, Warsaw, Poland, 6 August 2020. Live broadcast of the Catholic mass on the day of the presidential inauguration

The holy mass seemed as real as the Trabant kit.

The cultural conflict referred to in the article is non-existent. It would exist naturally in normal circumstances as a lesser issue but here it is being artificially whipped up and played as a provocation, as a decoy. Political technologists in Poland are veterans of deception and production of a fake narrative. They are veterans of provocation. They know how to bait western media, who will jump at every opportunity to reinforce their own prejudice. Prejudice, however, is not a good cognitive guide.

"Welcome to the Party" poster at the Auchan supermarket in Zielona Góra, Poland; Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro; 12 March 2015
“Welcome to the Party” poster at the Auchan supermarket in Zielona Góra, Poland; Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro; 12 March 2015

Popularization of the Trabant kit is not an isolated incident. Not long ago, you could buy the “Welcome to the party” poster with Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Castro drawn as party guests having fun. A local restaurant presented pictures of Lenin, Stalin, and the post-WWII Polish Communist leader Bierut in a painted decoration of its windows. There was no problem, although there is a law forbidding to glorify and propagate totalitarianism and its symbols.

Zielona Góra in Poland, Krawiecka Street, Restaurant front. 21 December 2015
Zielona Góra in Poland, Krawiecka Street, Restaurant front. 21 December 2015
Communist leaders Lenin, Stalin, and Bierut pictured in the restaurant windows. Zielona Góra, Poland, Krawiecka Street, 21 December 2015
Communist leaders Lenin, Stalin, and Bierut pictured in the restaurant windows. Zielona Góra, Poland, Krawiecka Street, 21 December 2015

The falsification of state documents, including school and university certificates, is a fact. This is not even hidden. This is the way it was before 1990. It remained this way. There was no rush to truth and authenticity. The new ruling class is the same as the old ruling class.

So, whether it is Duda in the office or non-Duda, it does not matter. Also, the constitution has a similar importance as before 1990, i.e. none. It never mattered since 1944.

@LechSBorkowski

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Moscow’s unlikely admirer

My comment on the article The Pope is Beijing’s unlikely admirer by Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times, 26 July 2020.


4 August 2020

I would like to take issue with a couple of items in this article.

the pre-eminent Catholic commentator George Weigel

On May 14, 2020 The Wall Street Journal published a false story by George Weigel. In the article Pope John Paul II’s Soviet Spy, he claimed that Irina Ilovayskaya Alberti, a widow of an Italian diplomat, was his agent in the 1980s Soviet Union.

Weigel does not provide the basis of his revelation. This pre-eminent commentator participates in fabricating a fantasy. Irina Alberti, who had an unrestricted access to JPII, was able to travel to the Soviet Union several times a year and meet with the so-called ‘dissidents’. If anything, this indicates the Soviets’ approval of her persona and her contacts with the pope. In summer 1984, when I applied for a permit to visit my relatives living in eastern Poland occupied by the Soviet Union since 1944, the Soviets refused. I was neither a pope’s acquaintance, nor a political or social activist.

Back to the current article:

This is part of the Holy See’s long campaign to achieve full mutual diplomatic relations with Beijing, which Vatican diplomats imagine will give them leverage with a leading world power. But it was a concession Francis’s predecessors would not have made — especially not the fiercely anti-communist John Paul II.

The legend of JPII being ‘fiercely anti-communist’ does not survive closer scrutiny. In fact, the opposite is true. JPII closely collaborated with the Communist authorities and was strongly supported by them. He was employed continuously at the Catholic University in Lublin from 1954 to 1978, when he was elected pope. His employment at the Catholic University occurred at the time when the authorities reduced the number of faculties from five to two.

Also, JPII was not keen to pray for the souls of Polish officers murdered by the Soviet NKVD in Katyn and other sites in 1940.

JPII celebrated the 26th anniversary of his pontificate in the Vatican on 15 October 2004 with a special performance of the Red Army Choir, also known as the Alexandrov Ensemble. The concert was broadcast to both Italy and Russia. The last song performed that evening as an encore was “Oka”, the anthem of the Polish Communist Army formed in the Soviet Union in 1943. This army was the main force behind the dictatorship in Poland. You can view the concert’s video on Youtube. This was both the celebration of Karol Wojtyla’s highly successful service as well as an admission of his subordination to Moscow, although western media correspondents failed to grasp the spectacle’s message.

The turbo-charged process of JPII’s canonization a mere few years after his death in 2005 is also very telling. It was not the divine hand that steered the process of making him saint. The devil’s advocate must have been asleep at the wheel as well.

Finally, let me quote from the closing paragraph of the article The Catholic Church in Communist Poland by Elizabeth Valkenier in The Review of Politics, Vol. 18, No. 3, 305-326 (July 1956):

This self-assumed task of convincing Catholics both inside and outside Poland that the Church’s mission is quite compatible with socialism, as well as the care taken not to break with the Holy See, seems to indicate that the pro-regime Catholics have a much more ambitious aim than the establishment of a national church. Their hope seems to be to have Catholicism serve not only the Polish regime but also world revolution.

@LechSBorkowski

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Communist subjugation of church

Comment on The Times’ article Putin and Stalin exalted beside angels in Russia’s ‘pagan temple’ by Marc Bennetts in Moscow


The appearance of Stalin on the wall of an Orthodox church seems surprising at first. However, if we reflect a little, we will see that it is far from being an isolated incident. The Communist takeover of the church hierarchy and organised religion has been carried out during the first few years of dictatorship in each of Communist countries.

Those who believe otherwise, have been indulging too much in fairy tales. Communists themselves pretended to have been unable to control the church in some countries, notably in Poland, which is utter nonsense. The Polish pope John Paul II invited the Red Army Choir to the Vatican for celebrations of the 26th anniversary of his pontificate in 2004. The video from the Choir’s performance can be viewed on Youtube. The last song performed that October evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the Communist-controlled Polish forces formed in the Soviet Union in 1943.

The church in Communist hands is an excellent tool of intelligence.

Putin going to church does not signify the triumph of religion. Quite the opposite. It represents the triumph and confidence of Communist intelligence.

@LechSBorkowski

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Spy from “God’s playground” becomes pope and saint

Comment on the article Virtual Vatican: Video game that lets you play Pope by Tom Kington in The Times, April 23, 2020.


Funny, that game makers haven’t come up with a pre-1990 ‘East-European democratic opposition to communism’ simulation and ‘East-European democracy post-1990’ simulation. I understand that games of this kind might be accidentally revealing too much.

Games like the one mentioned in the article are an excellent tool for shaping cognitive horizons of young persons. Very useful politically to train and shape ways of thinking of the youth in countries of the West.

Here is one scenario. You are a young cleric in postwar Poland. You are recruited by the Communist security service. You already have had some theatrical schooling. Your aim is now to rise as high as possible in the church hierarchy, while continuously serving your Communist handlers. You win the game if you (1) become pope, (2) you manage to celebrate the 26th anniversary of your pontificate with a concert of the Red Army Choir in the Vatican without raising public suspicion. Allow for the variant of first being recruited by the Communists and then becoming a cleric.

This game scenario has the obvious fault of being unrealistic. The game should be played in a collective mode. In other words, you need to control and influence actions of the clerics (one is not enough), political officials in different countries and security operatives. You win, if (1) one of the clerics progresses to be a pope and celebrates the 26th anniversary of his pontificate with a concert of the Red Army Choir broadcast to both Italy and Russia, and (2) some dozen years later he is declared saint in a falsified canonization carried out at a turbo-speed. So, to summarize, the aim is to go all the way.

This game has, in fact, been played in real life.

@LechSBorkowski

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The Clueless and the Mythmakers

Book review. Comments on The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher and the End of the Cold War by Archie Brown review by Dominic Sandbrook, March 22 2020.


Ah, the Clueless and the Mythmakers, in other words Russian and East European Centre, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.

John Paul II was Communist collaborator.


John Lewis Gaddis is wrong. John Paul II celebrated the 26th anniversary of his pontificate on October 15, 2004 with a performance of the Red Army Choir specially invited to the Vatican for this occasion. The concert was broadcast to Italy and Russia. The last song that evening, performed as encore, was Oka, the anthem of the Polish Communist troops formed in the Soviet Union in 1943.

The views of some of the leading historians are hopelessly naive.

Communists took full control of the Catholic church in Eastern Europe and the Vatican happily played along. There was no chance for an anticommunist priest to rise through the ranks of the church hierarchy. Just see what happened to the Hungarian Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty. He was stripped of his cardinal title by the pope Paul VI for staunchly resisting Communist takeover of the church in Hungary. This decision has not been reversed by John Paul II.

There is also plenty of other evidence, also from everyday life, that conclusions reached in the hallways of University of Oxford or Yale University are simply wrong.


Communist ideology and its practical implementation in many countries are radically different from the western experience. Describing and interpreting it is a cognitive challenge. Looking for truth in the minutes of the Politburo meetings will not get you very far. You may just as well read Pravda.

Communism did not collapse and the Cold War has not been won by the West. If you think you have won but do not understand how it exactly happened, you are in serious trouble.

@LechSBorkowski

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John Paul II approved elimination of Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty

Another comment following Niall Ferguson’s article in The Sunday Times.

One reader asked me,

Ulysses9:

Interesting and challenging views in your comment. Do you have a reference or evidence for the Pope refusing to pray for the Polish victims of NKVD massacres?

My response:

If I remember correctly, the information about the reluctance of John Paul II to pray for the murdered by the NKVD, appeared in the closing chapter of “The Triumph of Provocation” by Józef Mackiewicz (1902-1985). The book appeared in Polish in 1962. In 1982 Mackiewicz wrote one more chapter dealing with the then-recent events in Poland. Cardinal Wojtyła was elected pope in 1978.

Since I don’t have the book with me, I can’t give you a precise quote. Józef Mackiewicz was very critical of the Vatican’s raprochement with the Communist regimes under Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.

The Vatican envoy who negotiated church’s concessions with the Communist regimes in the 1960s and 1970s, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, was elevated to the position of the Vatican’s Secretary of State by Pope John Paul II. This decision implies John Paul’s approval for the Vatican’s earlier policy towards Communists, in which Casaroli played a key role, as well as approval of the degradation of the Hungarian anti-Communist Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, in which Casaroli again must have played a key role. As I wrote in an earlier comment, Pope Paul VI stripped Mindszenty of his title of Cardinal. Absolutely abominable decision which was the result of a long process. John Paul II must have approved and applauded.

The English edition of The Triumph of Provocation was published by the Yale University Press in 2009. It is interesting that the book was not translated for 47 years. When it appeared finally in English, the editors tried to alter the book’s message by adding a misleading commentary.

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Magical thinking about the church and the Communists

My second comment on Niall Ferguson’s article Aftermath: the fall of the Berlin Wall — and its lesson for China 30 years on in The Sunday Times.


Pope John Paul II, whom the author mentions, did not oppose Communists. He collaborated with them. He celebrated the 26 anniversary of his pontificate in October 2004 with the special performance of the Red Army Choir, known otherwise as the Alexandrov Ensemble. The concert took place in the Pope Paul VI Auditorium and was broadcast on tv to both Italy and Russia. The last song performed that evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the Polish Communist Army formed in the Soviet Union in 1943. You can view the video of it on Youtube. This army was later the backbone of the Communist dictatorship in Poland.

The key figure in the Catholic church who staunchly opposed Communism was Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, the Hungarian Primate, imprisoned by the Hungarian Communists from 1948 to 1956. From 1956 to 1971 he was a special guest of the American Embassy in Budapest, where he was granted asylum. Pope Paul VI stripped Mindszenty of his church titles, including the title of the cardinal, in 1973. The Vatican basically wanted Mindszenty to stop speaking against Communism and resign voluntarily. I recommend reading Mindszenty’s “Memoirs” published in 1974.

In Poland, just like in Hungary and other Communist countries, the church was firmly under the regime’s control. It benefited Communists to present the church hierarchy as a collection of independent figures opposed to the dictatorship. There was simply no way they would allow the advance of an anti-Communist on the ladder of the church hierarchy.

Pope John Paul II refused to pray for the thousands of Polish officers murdered by the Soviet NKVD in 1940.

So, instead of a thoughtful analysis, we have a mindless repetition of a fairy tale about the fall of Communism and Pope John Paul II alleged magical role in it.

The fall of the Berlin Wall plays a role analogous to that of a pretty lady accompanying an illusionist. Communism has not fallen and there is plenty of evidence that it didn’t.

@LechSBorkowski

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Oka flowing wide in the Vatican

My second comment following the article Benefits boom pushes Polish populists to victory by Oliver Moody in The Times, 14 October 2019.


Cardinal Wojtyla wouldn’t have advanced to the top of the church hierarchy without Communist support. The church in Poland quickly lost its independence after WWII. The Communist control was total.

In October 2004, the Red Army Choir gave a special performance in the Vatican during the celebration of the 26th anniversary of his pontificate. The last song performed that evening was “Oka”, the anthem of the Polish Communist army units formed in the Soviet Union under the Soviet control. There is nothing accidental about it. The performance was televised to Italy and Russia. Press correspondents noted that the pope was ‘visibly moved’. Ha ha. Visibly moved, sure.

He did come to the Vatican from a ‘faraway place’ indeed as he declared in his speech right after becoming the pope.

He did not want to pray for the Polish officers murdered by the Soviet NKVD in Katyn in 1940.

‘Very instrumental in the downfall of the Iron Curtain’. These are just empty slogans.