The Story

Once upon a time there was a young Pole. Let’s call him Marek. He was born under Communism. A good Catholic and keen on sports. He came of age during one of the most curious decades  - the 1980s – in Poland’s history.

The decade began with Poland a loyal member of the Soviet empire. Apart from a few brave individuals like Lech Walesa and Adam Michnik, most Poles had to find jobs with communist controlled institutions from local municipalities, the education system, or the police. He learnt Russian at school and angry with the corrupt political system he saw close up, he tried to start some business activity – within the limits permitted by the communist bureaucracy.

By the decade’s end Poland has organized the first democratic elections ever in the communist world. The Chinese are still waiting. A good man, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, became Prime Minister. Before Hungary opened its borders to allow East German tourists to cross into the West and before the Berlin Wall fell, Poland had escaped from communist dictatorship to the brave new world of democracy and a market economy.

But for our hero, the new world was not so welcoming to his desire to be an entrepreneur and a Polish businessmen bringing investment into Poland and creating jobs for Polish workers.

Prime Minister Mazowiecki was driven out of politics by a small clique of people linked to the charismatic Lech Walesa who became president of Poland in 1990 and unleashed a politico-economic-social dynamic which had many dark sides as well as helping to consolidate Poland’s future as a European Union democracy.

Marek was in his 30s and decided to take at face value the claims from President Walesa that Poland would join the rest of the rule-of-law democracies where politics and business were kept in separate categories.

He decided to go into the trucking business – the most important thing a market economy needs is transport systems to get goods to market – and imported 300 top-of-the-range lorries from Germany to operate them in Poland through his German company.

Polish TV News showed a proud Marek in Munich as he waited with Polish drivers to take the new MAN trucks back to Poland and help the Polish economy grow.

But he reckoned without the old style networks of communist control that still ran large sections of Polish bureaucracy, tax police and city councils.

They were corrupt under communism and were no less corrupt under capitalism. They wanted their cut and when they didn’t get under-the-table zlotys they had the tools – a compliant police force, legal officials who could find pretexts in the old communist penal code to take action, and a media that swapped communist conformity for sensationalist personalized attacks on anyone the new power-holders did not like.

Marek found his lorries taken from him by police without a warrant. A member of the Sejm (Poland’s Parliament) who championed his cause was found murdered shortly after he protested on Marek’s behalf.

A television journalist shot dramatic footage of the brutal raid on Marek’s business, including scenes of his brave wife trying to get an explanation from the police officer who looked with contempt on her and other workers with the same disdain on his face as he showed a few years earlier when beating up Polish Solidarity activists. A few months after shooting the film, the Italian owner of the independent TV channel was forced to leave Poland.

So Marek was now confronting the full forces of the early post-communist but pre-democratic Poland.  The message was clear. You can do business on our terms and if you pay off the right people.

For a new businessman, alone without a structure of  laws and business support in mature market economies, it was a frightening time.

But Marek was determined to create jobs for Polish workers and help grow Polish firms.

Two decades later, by now operating from Germany where he felt the legal system in place was a better guarantee of business security than the more volatile Poland where despite the efforts of successive Finance Ministers, the tax police operated as  a state within a state, as the tax police executives always took a substantial share of any reclaimed moneys, Marek was employing 7,000 Polish workers and providing employees for more than 140 Polish firms.

It was win-win economics. His employment agency helped Polish start-up businesses with a tailored supply of labour and 7,000 Poles who otherwise might have been without work were in paid employment.

A word of caution at this stage in our narrative.  Marek is a self-made businessman who keeps tight personal control over all aspects of his activity.

He has suffered at the hands of politicians and other ‘black forces’ in Poland including threats of imprisonment and actual imprisonment.

He re-located to Berlin and now to Switzerland out of fear for his personal security and that of his wife and daughter.

This was not idle paranoia. He has seen those he worked with disappear and has been confronted with break-ins and interference with this communications even in Germany.

The Polish authorities accused him of money-laundering and it is often the case that a firm whose head office is in one country does have to move cash across currency borders.

But a lengthy investigation by the Berlin police and relevant authorities cleared Marek.

He has also been involved in a long-running legal dispute with the Polish state which he believes – with evidence and a sense of injustice on his side – took advantage of the chaotic and corrupt relations between former communist officials, criminal elements and politicians just anxious to get money to run party political campaigns after 1990.

Edward Lucas, is a distinguished British author journalist, currently the International Editor of The Economist. He says the worst mistake journalists like him who covered the end of communism made was not to investigate and expose the continuing role of communist era money and officials after 1990.

“The worst mistake was that we journalists were so busy celebrating the fall of communism in 1989 we did not ask hard questions about what was happening to the money and the people from the old regime. Where did the billions of dollars in the Communist Party money and secret-police slush funds disappear to in all the confusion. Who kept control of them? And to what purpose were they put?

“It was a hard story to write. Some of the people who knew the answers committed suicide in rather implausible ways… I wish  had followed the remarkable business careers of underworld figures with links to the city administration.” (European Voice  21 November 2013)

It was in that in this world of linkages between communist money, communist-turned-capitalist officials, hidden violence and a lack of transparent rule-of-law judiciary systems with a clear separation between politicians and private business that Marek tried to make his way.

What is surprising is that the system has failed so far to destroy him.

They have taken advantage of the fact that Marek has provisionally held on to some social security money that is owed to the Polish authorities for the 7,000 men and women he employs as a signal that he wants the Warsaw government to examine seriously the complaints he has against Polish officialdom in past years.

A state even with dubious elements operating within it cannot be dictated to by a single individual. But instead of opening a dialogue with Marek, the Polish authorities used the kind of brute force that General Jaruzelski deployed to crush Polish Soldarity.

Armed police, disguised and unidentifiable, raided Marek’s business premises and effectively shut down operations early in November 2013. Elderly people were dragged from their beds to be interrogated about their sons and daughters.

A  lady who worked for Marek in Switzerland and was visiting her family in Wroclaw was arrested and is still in detention, together with a few other managers, mostly women.

There was a time when the reputation of Poles was to be the most polite Europeans when it came to ladies. Not any longer as women have been targeted by authorities in Poland who are still seeking a state of permanent confrontation with Marek.

But the new Polish nomenklatura know they are on thin ground. They cannot issue an arrest warrant for Marek as their actions would be illegal in most EU states and in other European Economic Area countries like Switzerland.

Instead they prefer to see 7,000 Poles without income and elderly Polish ladies taken and kept in prison as some kind of hostage.

Marek is no saint. He is an aggressive corner-cutting buccaneer of a businessman searching for business opportunities where he can find them. If he can avoid paying money to the state he does so – what business does not?

But he operates within the law. As owner of a legitimate properly registered tax-paying company in Berlin and a resident of Switzerland and owner of companies listed on the official Swiss business register he cannot afford to take any risks with his legal status.

He remains proudly Polish, a patriot who speaks no other language than that of Mickiewicz, Milosz and Pope John Paul II.  But someone, somewhere in the deep Polish state has decided he is an enemy of the ruling political elites. They tried to eliminate him using police raids and judicial measures in the 1990s. Now they are trying to destroy him with slander and innuendo carefully fed to the media.

Marek does not care about lies printed in the press. He cares only for the 7,000 people he employs. He could retire tomorrow and live abroad on saving and investment income.

But Poland is his country and he wants both justice and the chance to keep creating prosperity for Poles in Poland and to support the millions of Poles who now live and work outside of Poland, especially in other European countries.Once upon a time there was a young Pole. Let’s call him Marek. He was born under Communism. A good Catholic and keen on sports. He came of age during one of the most curious decades  - the 1980s – in Poland’s history.

The decade began with Poland a loyal member of the Soviet empire. Apart from a few brave individuals like Lech Walesa and Adam Michnik, most Poles had to find jobs with communist controlled institutions from local municipalities, the education system, or the police. He learnt Russian at school and angry with the corrupt political system he saw close up, he tried to start some business activity – within the limits permitted by the communist bureaucracy.

By the decade’s end Poland has organized the first democratic elections ever in the communist world. The Chinese are still waiting. A good man, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, became Prime Minister. Before Hungary opened its borders to allow East German tourists to cross into the West and before the Berlin Wall fell, Poland had escaped from communist dictatorship to the brave new world of democracy and a market economy.

But for our hero, the new world was not so welcoming to his desire to be an entrepreneur and a Polish businessmen bringing investment into Poland and creating jobs for Polish workers.

Prime Minister Mazowiecki was driven out of politics by a small clique of people linked to the charismatic Lech Walesa who became president of Poland in 1990 and unleashed a politico-economic-social dynamic which had many dark sides as well as helping to consolidate Poland’s future as a European Union democracy.

Marek was in his 30s and decided to take at face value the claims from President Walesa that Poland would join the rest of the rule-of-law democracies where politics and business were kept in separate categories.

He decided to go into the trucking business – the most important thing a market economy needs is transport systems to get goods to market – and imported 300 top-of-the-range lorries from Germany to operate them in Poland through his German company.

Polish TV News showed a proud Marek in Munich as he waited with Polish drivers to take the new MAN trucks back to Poland and help the Polish economy grow.

But he reckoned without the old style networks of communist control that still ran large sections of Polish bureaucracy, tax police and city councils.

They were corrupt under communism and were no less corrupt under capitalism. They wanted their cut and when they didn’t get under-the-table zlotys they had the tools – a compliant police force, legal officials who could find pretexts in the old communist penal code to take action, and a media that swapped communist conformity for sensationalist personalized attacks on anyone the new power-holders did not like.

Marek found his lorries taken from him by police without a warrant. A member of the Sejm (Poland’s Parliament) who championed his cause was found murdered shortly after he protested on Marek’s behalf.

A television journalist shot dramatic footage of the brutal raid on Marek’s business, including scenes of his brave wife trying to get an explanation from the police officer who looked with contempt on her and other workers with the same disdain on his face as he showed a few years earlier when beating up Polish Solidarity activists. A few months after shooting the film, the Italian owner of the independent TV channel was forced to leave Poland.

So Marek was now confronting the full forces of the early post-communist but pre-democratic Poland.  The message was clear. You can do business on our terms and if you pay off the right people.

For a new businessman, alone without a structure of  laws and business support in mature market economies, it was a frightening time.

But Marek was determined to create jobs for Polish workers and help grow Polish firms.

Two decades later, by now operating from Germany where he felt the legal system in place was a better guarantee of business security than the more volatile Poland where despite the efforts of successive Finance Ministers, the tax police operated as  a state within a state, as the tax police executives always took a substantial share of any reclaimed moneys, Marek was employing 7,000 Polish workers and providing employees for more than 140 Polish firms.

It was win-win economics. His employment agency helped Polish start-up businesses with a tailored supply of labour and 7,000 Poles who otherwise might have been without work were in paid employment.

A word of caution at this stage in our narrative.  Marek is a self-made businessman who keeps tight personal control over all aspects of his activity.

He has suffered at the hands of politicians and other ‘black forces’ in Poland including threats of imprisonment and actual imprisonment.

He re-located to Berlin and now to Switzerland out of fear for his personal security and that of his wife and daughter.

This was not idle paranoia. He has seen those he worked with disappear and has been confronted with break-ins and interference with this communications even in Germany.

The Polish authorities accused him of money-laundering and it is often the case that a firm whose head office is in one country does have to move cash across currency borders.

But a lengthy investigation by the Berlin police and relevant authorities cleared Marek.

He has also been involved in a long-running legal dispute with the Polish state which he believes – with evidence and a sense of injustice on his side – took advantage of the chaotic and corrupt relations between former communist officials, criminal elements and politicians just anxious to get money to run party political campaigns after 1990.

Edward Lucas, is a distinguished British author journalist, currently the International Editor of The Economist. He says the worst mistake journalists like him who covered the end of communism made was not to investigate and expose the continuing role of communist era money and officials after 1990.

“The worst mistake was that we journalists were so busy celebrating the fall of communism in 1989 we did not ask hard questions about what was happening to the money and the people from the old regime. Where did the billions of dollars in the Communist Party money and secret-police slush funds disappear to in all the confusion. Who kept control of them? And to what purpose were they put?

“It was a hard story to write. Some of the people who knew the answers committed suicide in rather implausible ways… I wish  had followed the remarkable business careers of underworld figures with links to the city administration.” (European Voice  21 November 2013)

It was in that in this world of linkages between communist money, communist-turned-capitalist officials, hidden violence and a lack of transparent rule-of-law judiciary systems with a clear separation between politicians and private business that Marek tried to make his way.

What is surprising is that the system has failed so far to destroy him.

They have taken advantage of the fact that Marek has provisionally held on to some social security money that is owed to the Polish authorities for the 7,000 men and women he employs as a signal that he wants the Warsaw government to examine seriously the complaints he has against Polish officialdom in past years.

A state even with dubious elements operating within it cannot be dictated to by a single individual. But instead of opening a dialogue with Marek, the Polish authorities used the kind of brute force that General Jaruzelski deployed to crush Polish Soldarity.

Armed police, disguised and unidentifiable, raided Marek’s business premises and effectively shut down operations early in November 2013. Elderly people were dragged from their beds to be interrogated about their sons and daughters.

A  lady who worked for Marek in Switzerland and was visiting her family in Wroclaw was arrested and is still in detention, together with a few other managers, mostly women.

There was a time when the reputation of Poles was to be the most polite Europeans when it came to ladies. Not any longer as women have been targeted by authorities in Poland who are still seeking a state of permanent confrontation with Marek.

But the new Polish nomenklatura know they are on thin ground. They cannot issue an arrest warrant for Marek as their actions would be illegal in most EU states and in other European Economic Area countries like Switzerland.

Instead they prefer to see 7,000 Poles without income and elderly Polish ladies taken and kept in prison as some kind of hostage.

Marek is no saint. He is an aggressive corner-cutting buccaneer of a businessman searching for business opportunities where he can find them. If he can avoid paying money to the state he does so – what business does not?

But he operates within the law. As owner of a legitimate properly registered tax-paying company in Berlin and a resident of Switzerland and owner of companies listed on the official Swiss business register he cannot afford to take any risks with his legal status.

He remains proudly Polish, a patriot who speaks no other language than that of Mickiewicz, Milosz and Pope John Paul II.  But someone, somewhere in the deep Polish state has decided he is an enemy of the ruling political elites. They tried to eliminate him using police raids and judicial measures in the 1990s. Now they are trying to destroy him with slander and innuendo carefully fed to the media.

Marek does not care about lies printed in the press. He cares only for the 7,000 people he employs. He could retire tomorrow and live abroad on saving and investment income.

But Poland is his country and he wants both justice and the chance to keep creating prosperity for Poles in Poland and to support the millions of Poles who now live and work outside of Poland, especially in other European countries.

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