When Leszek Moczulski was a political prisoner in Poland, a guard came to his cell one day and whispered, "I'm with you."
This, Moczulski says now, is one of the ways the spirit of freedom makes itself known in Communist Poland.
Moczulski was freed from prison last September under an amnesty covering the most recalcitrant political prisoners. Now 57, and with a shock of iron-gray hair, he is visiting Pasadena this week on a tour of the United States. He is scheduled to meet next week with Vice President George Bush.
Although not as well known in the West as Lech Walesa, the founder of the outlawed Solidarity free trade union, Moczulski is considered more dangerous in some ways to the Polish regime.
Heads Right-Wing Group
He is head of the Confederation of Independent Poland, or KPN, an illegal organization that in its heyday claimed a following of 40,000. The confederation is on the right wing of the opposition movement, disagreeing with those groups on the left, such as Solidarity and others, that would attempt to reform but retain the Communist system. In this connection, Moczulski sees Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev as "most dangerous"--the man with the best chance of making a Marxist economy work and revitalizing the Communist Party.
The KPN platform stands in direct opposition to the tenets of the Polish regime. Moczulski wants Poland to adopt a free-enterprise economy, throw off Soviet domination and take what he perceives to be its rightful place among Western nations.
"Our time will come," he said.
Many observers say the ferment that gave rise to Solidarity is spent, that Gorbachev's reform movement is, for the short term at least, striking a responsive chord in Poland and other East European countries.
They say that Moczulski and other dissidents have been set free because the opposition is too weak politically to represent a serious threat to the government.
But Moczulski says he was released from prison because of internal and external pressure, and he adds that the opposition in Poland is quietly gathering its strength, building alliances among disparate factions and planning to take action against the government as early as this summer.
Before the end of this century, he believes, Poland will have peacefully achieved freedom and independence from the Soviet Union.
Leszek Moczulski (pronounced LESH-ek ma-CHOOL-ski) has revealing memories of the past. A journalist and author, with a background in history, political science and law, he was first arrested for political activity in 1957, at a time when anti-Soviet unrest was sweeping Eastern Europe.
It was then that he met Zbigniew Pudysz, the internal security officer assigned to his case. Pudysz tried, unsuccessfully, to convince him of the correctness of the Communist system.
Moczulski, released a year later, has kept in touch with Pudysz in an odd sort of way. As Moczulski continued his organizing, Pudysz was promoted. A general now, he is deputy minister of the interior.
"We were both going up," Moczulski said. "Every time I am arrested, I receive regards from him."
He was arrested again in 1979 as the founder of KPN and was imprisoned until 1981, when he was released with the help of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. Five weeks later, the cardinal was dead and Moczulski was rearrested, charged with counterrevolutionary activity.
In 1982, with the country under martial law, he was put on trial, and the trial was given full coverage in the government-controlled press. Attention focused on allegations that the group had been aided by "subversive centers" and emigre groups in the United States, Canada and Western Europe.
Moczulski was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison. He was freed for six months in 1984 under an amnesty and then was rearrested.
He said he suffered three heart attacks in prison and was given no medical attention. A doctor came once, he said, but was not allowed to do anything.
The doctor, he said, simply advised, "Hold on," then looked around his 9-by-10-foot cell and observed, "If I was in a cell like this, I would have a heart attack too."
Moczulski's wife, Maria, who is accompanying him on his tour, went to see the warden, Zhura Luzavicki, to complain that he was dying. "Well, it is not a sanitarium. It is a prison," the warden told her.
At another time, while suffering from a throat ailment, Moczulski was transferred to Barczewo Prison, which is built on lake-front pilings. The place was so dank that fungus covered the walls.
Moczulski said he believes that the authorities moved him, and took away his daily 20 minutes of exercise, in the hope that he would not survive.
"They sent me to Barczewo to get sick, to die," he said.
At Barczewo he was put into a cell next to Erich Koch, administrator of the Ukraine when it was occupied by the Germans in World War II. The assignment was no accident, Moczulski said--the authorities were trying to discredit his movement by equating it with Nazi collaboration.
He said that although he and Koch were neighbors, they did not talk. When Koch, who has since died, was transferred, Moczulski inherited his mattress, which was better than the one he had.
During the years in prison, Moczulski had a succession of cell mates, many of them criminals put there, he said, in an effort to compromise him.
One had been convicted of raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl. Another had killed more than half a dozen people in a series of robberies. Another was a major operator in Poland's black market.
Despite their crimes, some of them were not so bad as cell mates, Moczulski said.
"When you are there, it is quite another world," he said.
From time to time, news of the outside world leaked in. Furtive supporters of Solidarity would put up speakers across the street from Warsaw's Central Prison, where Moczulski spent much of his term, and broadcast tapes of encouragement to jailed dissidents, then flee before police could locate them.
Moczulski was kept in isolation in a section of the prison reserved for particularly dangerous political prisoners.
Visits from his wife, when they were allowed, were restricted to once a month. Once a year, she could bring a food package of no more than about 6 1/2 pounds.
Change of Heart
He had a series of investigating officers, among them a Lt. Zalewski, who was crude and threatening the first time Moczulski met him, in the early 1980s. Five years later, Zalewski was a changed man. He was a captain by then, had put on weight and grown a mustache.
"Mr. Moczulski, if your party is going to win, please remember me," Moczulski said he told him. "I'm not so bad."
"What?" Moczulski responded. "Are you convinced the Communist Party is not going to win?"
"Don't joke with me," he said the officer came back. "I know what is going on."
Although it would have been possible, Moczulski said, he never attempted to escape. As a prominent opposition leader, he said, "My duty was to stay in prison."
When finally released, he weighed only 130 pounds and went directly into a hospital. Since his release, he has gained 40 pounds.
Release proved to be anticlimactic. Other political prisoners were required to sign a loyalty pledge, but not Moczulski.
"They didn't even try," he said.