Tekst jest traktowany jako integralna całość, można go cytować, ale zgodnie z prawem z podaniem źródła, tzn. autora książki i jej tytułu, osoby udzielające wywiadu.
Poles are very tolerant
with Matthew Tyrmandem
In Poland your father, Leopold Tyrmand, worked in Polish Roman Catholic weekly magazine "TygodnikPowszechny" and wore a cross around his neck.
Yes, he converted to Catholicism in the '50s for his first marriage.
In the United States he converted back to Judaism. Why?
He converted back I believe for my mother because it was important to her and her family. Because he was a Jew. The Jewish religion says once you're born a Jew, you're a Jew. You can convert to Buddishm, you can convert to Hinduism, whatever it is, you are still a Jew.
In 1965, Leopold Tyrmand left Poland to be with his mother and your grandmother Maryla in Israel, but then from Israel he went to New York. Was "Eretz Israel" not the right place for him to live?
No, he wrote about it in the '60s certainly when he went to America and for years before that he had always felt like an American even before he had ever set foot in America. He wasn't going to be in Israel. Even though his mother was in Israel he'd already made up his mind that he was going to go to America to engage the greatest experiment in human lliberty ever created as all he wanted more than anything was to express himself freely, and write and think and egage his way. He was a secular Jew. Though he was a Zionist politically, he was not I think a religious Zionist. He visited his mother in Israel, but he was never going to stay there.
Your paternal grandfather, Zelman Tyrmand, was a member of the Management Board of the Warsaw synagogue Nożyki. Your father was a Polish Jew and your mother is an American Jew. Do you see yourself as an American with Polish roots or an American with Jewish and Polish roots?
I am a Polish American with a dual citizenship, I do see myself as an American first at this stage of my life but also certainly as a Pole as well. My Americanism comes first because I grew up in America, but I do consider both countries, nations that I both have spent much time in, have a strong sense of, care for, want to see the best for, want to invest in, want to spend more time in, and want to work toward making better. And when it comes to my Judaism, I am Jewish enthnically and I was born a Jew so I will always be a Jew but I am not hardcore Jewish, I do not observe the religion beyond its simplest philosophical and spiritual predicates - which I view through the lens of the Judeo-Christian ethos and ethic. I believe in the Jewish religion as a religion without observing it. I do not formally follow or adhere to any of its ritual. I do not celebrate the holidays, I did not have Bar Mitzvah, I do not keep kosher. I believe in Israel's right to exist, both as a Jew and a human being, given the Jewish experience. And I would say I am a Polish-American of Jewish religion and enthnicity.
Leopold Tyrmand, a Polish Jew from communist Poland, became conservative in the United States. Your father's motto was: "I came to America to protect it from itself". You're increasingly visiting Poland and speaking more boldly in public. Will your motto be: "I've come to Poland to defend it from itself"?
Well, first, when you label Tyrmand, especially later in life, as "a conservative Jew" I think it's important to note that... the labels that changed regarding him over the course of a generation were just that - they were labels. His philosophy never changed. It was rooted in enlightenment philosophy and entirely consistent. One can see this in his diary (Diary 1954). He would refer to himself an Edmund Burkean classical liberal. Edmund Burke being one of his philosophical heroes. And he believed in freedom, Christian forms, liberty, it's why he emigrated to America. America was the greatest experiment in human liberty. Very much predicated on the enlightenment and philosophical evolution of Europe. And so his viewpoint didn't really change that much. So he's trickilly called not conservative, in Poland he was "bikiniarz", hipster, a sort of leader and inspiration to other dissidents. And so when he came the US, he went from being a quote unquote liberal to a conservative. But the value system didn't really change. Maybe a little bit as he got older, he became a little bit more conservative socially - but he was very libertarian in his belief system. The philosophical predicate was always the same though and it was rooted in human liberty and the legitimacy that must be endowed in government of and by the people. When he came to the US in the height of the countercultural revolution, he came in 1966/67, at the start of it, and sort of made his career, as it accelerated, he saw a degraded value system, based on things he saw in Europe as well, like the French and the Western philosophers and academics embracing socialism and even communism and cultural relativism and existentialism and post modernism, so he came to shed light on that to the American audience. So he gravitated to the conservative right-of-center circle in the US, because those were the ones who were critical of these leftist ideas, whether it was totalitarian leftism and communism or socialism or soft totalitarianism, and sort of progressive radicalism and leftism. So he was consistent and it was in that consistency he felt he was able to have impact in calling a spade a spade and trying to help save America from itself. We could have easily come to the conclusion that he failed. He did not save America from itself. It drifted further left where government grew and freedoms were replaced, especially in the social sphere, with the tyranny of the leftist orthodoxies. Radical progressivsmcontinued to take over the academy and media even more than it was in his time but it was in his early years in the USA that this was beginning in earnest. By the mid-'70s it was the fever pitch and it never really looked back. We're only seeing a little bit of a political blowback in the 80s with Reagan which unfortunately my father did not get to see the whole tenor of- and see the fall of communism. He was very happy when Reagan won in 1980. But he didn't get to see the whole Reagan legacy play out and now it's kind of where America is in that moment again.
When it comes to me in Poland, there are some similarities between my father and my experiences. I came to Poland in a phase of my life - in my 30s- when I didn’t know what would be next. In terms of trying to reinvent myself after Wall Street and figure out what I was going to do when I gravitate toward political ideas.Of course I did not have the pressures he had on him that necessitated his departure from Poland to the US, but when I started coming to Poland and fell in love with the history, culture and my own family history, his history and legacy, I couldn’t help but become a commentator of politics and the contemporary situation- it’s in the blood after all. And there is an element of similarity in that saying. I immediately when I came I started criticizing the corrupt PO(/PSL) government. I'd already built experience as a commentator in the US and an activist for good government, honest government, transparent government, smaller government, less wasteful government and so on. I certainly wanted to come and talk about those things. And these were things that unfortunately in post-communist Poland over the last twenty years, free people, even though they thought and believed the system and government around them was corrupt, they couldn't say it, because of the system that worked to protect the political elites, the corrupt political elites and was vengeful toward those who called them out. So I like my father, very opinionated, very passionate about our political ideas, came to engage in that debate and there is some truth to that, but my ego, I think, is not as large as his. So I hazard to use those words of coming “to save Poland from itself.” I just want to suggest in Poland that I have some different experiences as a sort of University of Chicago-educated, free-market, Wall Street market participant, private sector competitor, the philosophy being what it is – of rational self-interest and of the prosperity that ensues when individual liberty is expanded. And that's very similar to my father, who I've come to look at as a true libertarian populist. I definitely want to help, I want to be involved, I want to be involved in the economic debate, in the political debate and the debate on what is good government, what is legitimate government and where I have been at the tip of the spear I believe is the debate over free speech, a free press and free media, and the idea of what free expression is and means to society. That was something that was important to my father in Poland and the US and is something that I'm trying to fight for in Poland, from necessity. I came, I started criticizing some of the bad actors and the looter elite of the last governemtnand then I had all sorts of problems from antidemocrats like RadosławSikorski or Roman Giertych. So I'm trying to live a... sort of a similar legacy to my father's with a similar value system and time will tell if I can have that kind of impact.
You've been to Poland many times.
I am in Poland every other month or so. There is a lot for me to engage in Poland, politics, business, media and debate. And of course with my father’s legacy- culture.
Are Poles in your opinion tolerant?
Yeah, the most in Europe.
Well, multiple reasons. One is that it doesn't have the same level of elitism that most of Western European nations do, especially the French and the Germans, sort of the academic media political elitism that has filtered to the middle class and the grassroots and anybody with an education in France or in Germany, England a little less so. So many of these “developed” societies the status is first and foremost created by the academy. Poles are more libertarian-minded because of 500 years plus of oppression by Austria-Hungary, Prussia and Germany, Russia, Soviet Russia, Soviet Union. So, Poles I think are a little bit more liberty-minded the same way Americans are and the same way Brits are and so as a result I think they judge more based on character. I think that if you look at the map, the reason that I've written about this and that, the best place to be Jewish in Europe today, especially in the EU is Poland, because there is no Muslims, it's all Roman Catholic Poles, Roman Catholics are good people. I take a group of Roman Catholics over a group of educated middle-class leftist academic elitists, medie-type elitists from the developed countries in Europe. I take a group of Polish Roman Catholics because the values are better. The church is still strong in Poland. It has preserved the values of good and evil and treating people better and empathy that exists from those who have a strong spiritual center. What comes from a strong spiritual center is a strong moral center. So I look at Poland as the greatest place and I think that Poles are very tolerant. When I talk to people in America, especially on the right, everybody that I speak to, when I say that I'm very involved in Poland, I'm a Polish citizen, I go to Poland, I try to help the new government, I invest in Poland, anybody that has been to Poland say, Poles are the most hospitable people I've met in Europe. They are. Poles are very hospitable. They're warm by and large, they just don't like being told what to do, which is why my father was the way he was and why I guess in part I am the way I am. And they're very intelligent, they had to be to survive, there's a lot of nuance in their speech and language and humor and communication and that comes also from hundreds of years of repression and not having their own nation state. So when I see in the "GazetaWyborcza" rag a cover story "The Racism of Ordinary Poles" as a headline in their shitty newspaper, it angers me, because the real racists are the American left, or the German left, who believe in “taking up the white man's burden”- to paraphrase Kipling. Germany is highly, and arrogantly, paternalistic, I believe racism comes from paternalism which is a form of action and the idea "I have to help them because they can't help themselves". So I look at Poland and I can see a much more tolerant society.
Some people keep talking about Polish anti-Semitism and from time to time we can hear about the "Polish concentration camps". Why are Poles under such strong attack?
I think that mostly it's because of the agenda –the Jewish lobby is strong polically and in the media. And when it comes to being successful despite having so much stuff against them, especially coming out of the 19th and then culminating in the first half of the 20th century in Europe. Jews dominated, as 10% of Poles before the War... Jews dominated and were very present at the highest level of economic and commercial success in Central Eastern Europe…up until World War 2. Then they went from 10% of the Polish population to almost zero. And so the memory and what's passed down to the generations is this, and it's not that far removed - most of my generation, their grandparents, their Jewish grandparents, who survived Poland and escaped Poland do not have good things to say about their experiences in Poland. And obviously there were very bad things that happened in Poland to Jews, not even before the war, and then during the war and after the war, because the Poles also were oppressed. So this was just a hotbed of bad activity driven by sectarian animas given the violence all around Poland as it was between Russia and Germany. And Poles by and large were more likely to be righteous among the nations then perpetrators of evil but ofof course there were some Poles who committed atronicies, as there would be with any large identity group, given that provincial uneducated people who have had their own lives decimated are prone to do bad things- but this was the exception rather than the rule despite how some media platforms portray this history. Peasants in Poland are going to be like peasants in Ukraine or peasants in Russia, peasants in Africa or peasants in the US, who murdered Native Americans. I mean, there's always going to be packets of evil among the uneducated, among the ignorant. So some of the things that did happen in Poland like Jedwabne or Kielce, and they certainly did happen in my view, they are culminations of very ugly difficult histories. Poles get very short shrift on their suffering during WW2 on a nominal basis. Many millions of Poles perished as well with the level of Jews. The Germans wanted to wipe out Polish culture as well and that does not get the same attention because Poles don't have the same historical, academic, media and grassroots lobby that the Jews have. So I think that this is embedded for around 70 years across three generations. It's very tough to fight this narrative. Though I can say the revising of history is not necessarily the answer. All you can try and do is educate, educate, educate. And that's what I hope to see. And then there are groups that I work with and that I watch that are trying to educate honestly. But it's not an easy history and a lot has been obfuscated. The fact that WW2, then transition to the Soviet period, where there was no truth in historical sense. Everything was a Soviet agitprop revision to serve tyranny. That did not help deliver accurate 20th century Polish history to the world at large.
What in your opinion is the biggest problem in the relations between Polish and Jewish people in Poland and the United States?
In the US, there's none. Jews are assimilated and successful in every endeavour. There's very little antisemitism. There's probably a little more in Poland, just like there'll be a little bit more anywhere that's a homogenous society. America is a melting pot. It's very different. Even though there are the leftists and media and academic elite who make it there industry to say America is racist - it's not. The American civil rights movement was very successful. There's still pockets of provinciality in the US, where there's a level of antisemitism the same as in Poland. By virtue of the fact that Poland is a homogenous and smaller country it's probably going to look a little bit more visible. Look, I write for "Wprost" which is a centrist platform, and I read the comments and there's a lot of antisemitic web Internet trolling and comments.These are by people who have likely never met a Jew, never seen a Jew, yet everything in the world is to be blamed on this amorphous bogeyman and scapegoat: “the Jews.” That's sheer idiocy. Anybody who has an IQ above 60 knows that's bullshit. That is written by frustrated people who live in their parents' basements, who need astrawmanto beat on to avoid recognition of their own insecurities…and so the Jews because of the history in Poland who especially the last hundred years in Europe, and with their well documented love affair with Bolshevism- easily became the strawman. It's not grounded in reality, it's not the majority, it's not even a major minority, it's a very very small segment that lives to basically write on the web utter nonsense. And that's what they do. It's not something that I take seriously and I don't think it's something that needs to be criminalized either.
You’ve been trying to help to get the United States to lift visa requirements for Poland. Why hasn’t it been possible to achieve this even after 25 years since Poland became sovereignty?
My read on this, and I don't really have a perfect answer, that delinates exactly what transpired over those 25 years, but I will say that my estimate what has happened that has not allowed Poland to get visas... First of all, it really is not anything that can be debated from the last... 15 years already, because it is not going to happen after 2001. After September 11th, there wasn't going to be any domestic function in place that would expand the Visa Waiver Program- no matter what country. So the time to have accomplished Visa Waiver was between 89 and 2001, so there's a gap, the '90s. And my view of why that did not happen was basic incompetence and corruption of the politicians and political class. They did not really work that hard on Poland. And that also occured, Sikorski always talked about how it's a priority. But he didn't do much. The will of the political class, the Polish lobby has weakened a lot. In Washington and then the US over the last 20 years and more so even over the last ten. Part of that is because the Polish immigration phase was so long and over last 25 years the Poles who emigrated had assimilated. So the strength of the lobby was diffused. Most of the strong lobbies ethnically in America were in the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s. Groups like the Irish, the Italians, even Hispanic. They all had a much stronger lobby as they came to the US and acted more cohesive in their communites. They clustered around big cities and politically engaged and even took over many city hall’s on ethnic lines. They built strong power bases in the neighbourhoods. The Poles did so initially but they also built businesses, succeeded, and then they left and moved to the suburbs- so by dint of hard work and discipline achieved the American dream. So I look at Polonia and it's very diffuse. The innate organization that represents Polonia and Polonia's interest is the Polish-American Congress. That's a useless organization. That has been run by a cabal of self-interested Chicago style politicos and wannabe politicians, who had not been incentivized to work for Polonia. Again, they claim to be working on these issues, but they didn’t and don't. They don't really do much beside talk. There's more opportunity for them to cement their own power and make money, much like most Polish politicians. Chicago politicians are not for creating a strong lobby, so I think the Polish- American Congress has been, even with its strong pre-'89 history, has been useless, neutered, a nothing organization that has not done anything for the good of Polonia. And hopefully there'll be changes coming forward the next year or two because Polonia is getting more re-engaged with the political debate, Polonia is very right-of-center. With the government having shifted, and itbecoming a strong right-of- center government in the motherland, Polonia is more interested and engaged, and especially now with the war that has been waged against this new government and the truth by the self-interested globalist media cabal. Polonia is very very engaged now. So I think there'll be more work done to get Polonia's interest to the forefront. Visa Waiver's a top issue right now I mean look what's going on with American emigration, it is going to be very very tough. The one thing that put Poland in a better position going forward to petition for VWP is what BeataSzydło and this government did with not allowing Brussels' injections of migrants given the destabilizing force they present to any country that they go into. Muslim immigration means more Jihadist acts of violence. So, if Poland had gone along with what Brussels wanted on migrant quotas, which Sikorski wanted, and Kopacz wanted, Schetyna suggested, PO, Nowoczesna, and the now opposition left very Brussels-centric, then there would have been no chance of getting visa waiver at all going forward. But there's still a chance, I've got this straight from Mark Kirk, the Senator for Illinois, who has tried to work on the Visa Waiver as an issue and he told this to me personally. So this is a good thing. But under Donald Trump it's not going to be easy. I did have a conversation with Anne Coulter, who may or may not be his immigration tsar, for helping him focus on immigration. She loves Poles - good Catholics, good values, entrepreneurial, great allies of America, if anybody's ever going to get these under a Trump adminstration, it's going to be Poles. But it's not going to be easy. There's going to be no positives for this government if Hillary Clinton's elected. Because she's an enemy of the right. She's funded by Soros. I always say that if she wins, the first meeting is going to be with Mateusz Kijowski, not anybody from the new government, from the Polish government, because she's a leftist progressive radical activist. She hates the right, all those on theright to her are fascist, racist, islamophobic bigots and those philosophies don't mesh with her world. Certainly I think Trump will be better for Poland, despite all the cross- currents going on right now with the Russophilia and Kremlin ties but Visa Waiver, I'm not going to lie - is not going to be easy in the next couple of years.
Can we build a strong Polish lobby in the United States as did the Jews?
No, there's no shot. First of all, the Jews have a very long standing, with deep ties to the US government on both the left and the right and a long history of political engagement dating back to city politics during the age of immigration (mid to late 19th century). And of course it comes down to money as well - Jews have been very engaged in American society for longer than Poles, and by being highly successful at business they can finance this engagement and lobby. American Jews are the wealthiest demographic, and a small demographic, (1% of American population). There are more Poles than Jews in America. And it comes down to financial resources, I mean, Jews have been successfully engaged in commercial enterprise at the highest level for hundreds of years not just in America but globally. Big books have been written about this. We can talk about why and whatever and it does not relate to the protocols of the Elders of the Zion. It relates to education, it relates to the nomadic necessity of being focused on education and the academic sphere to survive, of a thousand years nomadically all over Europe because there was never been a homeland and to survive it was necessary to use your wits and pass it down through the generations- hence the focus on education. And with their high success and deep engagement in civic society, Jews have had a very strong position in US political influence through most of the 20th century to the present. Poles will not be able to build that without financial resources. And because Poles are diffused, they're not going to commit the resources collectively the way the Jews have. And looking especially in the 20th century for Jews, with Israel being such a big issue, the existential debate on Israel as the Jewish homeland, that gives Jews a mobilizing and galvanizing motive to work together, to be involved in this issue of self preservation is also a powerful bond of cohesion in lobbying. So there does not seem to be the same sort of setup that would allow Polonia to mimic this lobbying success of the Jews. At least not any time soon. For that to happen behavioral patterns will have to start changing and it will take generations. How many Jewish Americans have been in the highest level of government in the US? - Many. How many Polish Americans - I can only think of one at the highest level and that's Zbigniew Brzezinski. And he was not really even a Pole, he was Canadian emigrant from a young age and came to the US from a young age to engage policy, politics and academics, so it's not a good example in terms of high level Polish representation in the US.
So we have no chance to build a strong lobby in the USA?
I mean, you asked whether you can mimic the Jewish lobby and there is no chance of that. You could have a strong lobby in a different way, on a smaller scale, absolutely. And it's starting to rebuild. The Polish-American Congress has not helped but Polish groups, there is a deeper engagement with Polish affairs in the US because of the political shift in Poland. In the last ten years, Poles in America did not that want to engage in Polish affairs because they looked what was going on in Poland and they were ashamed - they were ashamed of PO and PSL and SLD, they were ashamed of people like Kwaśniewski and Miller. These are not Polish politicians that Polonia can aspire to work for or help. Now there is a government and a political system in place. Communists are vanquished. Many in Polonia were among the hardest kind of Anti-Communists because these were the ones who did what they could to escape Communism and so the post-communists that were populating the previous government, there was no connection to them. Now, given there's really the anti-Communist hardliners in power, that's changing a bit. So I do think there is room for the Polish lobby to increase its scale of lobbying impact. And I think it's happening. I'm trying to be involved, I'm trying to help and see things happen that are positive, that show higher levels of engagement. But it won't happen overnight and it isn't an idea that could mimic the Jewish lobby. Israel is a very different country than Poland in terms of funding and political engagement. The Polish government isn't going to fund the way Israel does and neither are Poles on the ground going to fund like the Jews do, it's very different. A lot of Jews are upper-middle class in America and Poles are middle-class and working class. There's no corollary, there is nothing that would suggest that there is any similarity in behaviour or characteristics that would make that possible.
Many Jews from Western Europe decided to leave their native country due to the growing anti-Semitism connected with the growing population of Muslims. Let’s take France for example. Can Poland become a shelter for them?
I doubt it for a few reasons, mostly cultural. Look there's not a lot of Jewish culture in Poland. It's not a place where it's going to be easy because there is such a strong Polish culture and it's such a developed society. But it doesn't make sense. If I'm a French Jew, I'll speak three languages most likely - French, Hebrew and English. I'm going to the United States or I'm going to Israel. Previously it might have also been Netherlands, Belgium or Sweden or elsewhere in Scandinavia but they have the same problems that all the Jews are escaping from in France- which is ascendant Islam. I don't think anyone's going from France, knowing English already, because most French Jews and most French educated people speak English, to then go with a very built family life and say "Now I want to become a Slavic citizen and learn a Slavic language and embed myself in a society where there is no real Jewish culture and in America there is a strong Jewish culture and linguistics which are more easily approachable.” So I don't think there's any chance of that happening. In fact, in my years of going to Poland, which is frequent, I didn't get to meet a French Jew even visiting Poland, let alone relocating, so...