Chernobyl and Communism

Taboo themes of the Left.

Chernobyl has been much in the news, with good reason.  Thirty years ago, on April 26, 1986, as Lydia Smith noted in the International Business Times, “one of the four nuclear reactors at the Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine exploded. It was the most catastrophic nuclear disaster the world has ever witnessed, sending massive amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere and forcing the mass evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine and Belarus.” 

Other sources confirm that the damage continues, so it’s not just a matter of history. The same could be said for another April memorial in Poland. There president Andrzej Duda and government officials gathered at the Powaski military cemetery in Warsaw to attend the funeral of Zygmunt Szendzielarz. As Monika Scislowska of the Associated Press explained, the ceremony was to remind Poles “about facts and figures from the past that were taboo themes under decades of communism — for example, resistance against the regime and the persecution it was met with.” That persecution has a back story.

In August of 1939, Stalin and Hitler signed a pact that gave the Baltic states to the USSR and divided up Poland between the USSR and National Socialist Germany. In September 1939, when both regimes invaded Poland, Szendzielarz was attached to the Wilno cavalry brigade. As Scislowska recalls, the officer “fought against the Nazi German and Soviet invasion in September 1939 and later led an underground resistance movement.” Col. Szendzielarz, codename Lupaszka, “continued his fight for Poland’s sovereignty after communism was imposed on Poland in 1945.”

The occupying Soviets arrested Szendzielarz in 1948 and he endured more than two years of interrogation and torture in Warsaw’s Mokotow prison. He was sentenced to death on November 2, 1950, and on February 8, 1951 the Soviets executed him along with several other Home Army soldiers and dumped their bodies into a mass grave with some 250 other victims. His remains were identified through DNA tests in 2013 and in April 2016, a full 65 years after his execution, Polish leaders paid tribute to the anti-Nazi, anti-Communist resistance fighter. 

At the ceremony, president Duda spoke of giving back Poland the dignity that was “trampled by those who tortured and murdered.” Poland now has leaders to “remember, honor, and appreciate,” fighters such as Zygmunt Szendzielarz. During the 1940s and 1950s, as Scislowska notes, the Communist regime imprisoned, executed independence fighters and dumped them into unmarked graves. Since only a few of these graves have been found, the story is ongoing, and there is also another side to Chernobyl. 

“Soviet power plus electricity equals Communism” was a favorite maxim of Lenin. Soviet bosses sought electricity by any means necessary, including nuclear power, without fear of any protest movement. As in Poland, the Communists crushed any resistance to the regime for any reason. Not so in the West, where nuclear power drew vigorous protest and the protesters attained heroic status. 

Likewise, in the USSR any attempt to protest the vast array of Soviet nuclear weapons, the most powerful ever assembled, would have been met with crushing force. So no such protest ever happened. On the other hand, in the West a Soviet-backed “peace” movement sought a nuclear freeze that would lock Soviet advantages in place. These leftist protesters also attained heroic status.

After Chernobyl, Jay Leno quipped that a deal had been worked out with the Catholic Church. If they would send Mother Teresa to help with the Chernobyl victims, then the USSR would stop trying to kill the Pope. As it happens, Pope John Paul II was a Pole and as Matthew Blitz noted last September, the attempted assassination remains an unsolved case

The Poles know that, as Milan Kundera said, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” And as Orwell put it, those who control the present control the past, and those who control the past control the future. The left is well aware of that dynamic and the left holds sway in education. That’s why students learn so little, if anything, about the Stalin-Hitler Pact. 

The left does not want students to learn that Nazis and Communists were once allies, that they have much in common, and that their invasion of Poland started World War II.  The left does not want students to learn that anti-nuclear activism against the West gave aid and comfort to the regime that executed resistance fighters and threw their bodies into unmarked graves. 

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield and Hollywood Party: Stalinist Adventures in the American Film Industry