BORN UNDER COMMUNISM
Standing by a statue dedicated to freedom, Aldona Wos remembered a childhood under communism and the inspiration of her heroic father, who saved Jews and survived a Nazi concentration camp.
“Having lived under communism, I know firsthand the devastation that the communist regimes have imposed on millions of people,” she said last week at the fourth anniversary of the dedication of the “Goddess of Democracy” on Capitol Hill.
Dr. Wos grew up in Poland, earned a medical degree from the Warsaw Medical Academy and served as the U.S. ambassador to Estonia after her parents resettled in the United States.
Her father, Paul Zenon Wos, was a Polish soldier at the outbreak of World War II, when the Nazis invaded from the west and the Soviets from the east.
He escaped from the Red Army after the Soviet massacre of 22,000 Polish officers in the Katyn forest in 1940 and made his way back to Warsaw, where he later saved Jews from the Nazis.
Mr. Wos fought in the failed Warsaw Uprising four years later and spent the rest of the war in a concentration camp.
“My parents endured years of communist rule before giving up everything in their native country to bring me to a land that provided fundamental freedom and opportunity,” Dr. Wos said.
Although communism began to collapse in Europe 22 years ago, Dr. Wos noted that “one-quarter of the world’s population” still lives under the repressive system in countries like China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam.
“Communism is not a thing of the past,” she said. “It is our obligation to teach future generations that truth - that communist ideology is responsible for crimes against humanity.”
Paula Dobriansky, a former under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, explained that the statue to freedom is a replica of the one Chinese students erected in Tiananmen Square in 1989 before Chinese troops crushed the pro-democracy movement.
“As we gather here today,” she said, “we look to a future that will leave the forces of evil in our wake.”
The fight against communism is also a fight to save history, said Lee Edwards, chairman of the congressionally established Victims of Communism Foundation, which dedicated the statue at the intersection of Massachusetts and New Jersey avenues Northwest.
“Sometimes I am asked, ‘Why do you bother? The Cold War is over. Communism is dead,’ ” Mr. Edwards said.
He cited several examples of what he believes are attempts to whitewash communist repression. General Motors is a sponsor of a film, “The Birth of a Party,” about the 90th anniversary of the Chinese communist party.
“I doubt it contains footage of the massacre of pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square or the Great Cultural Revolution,” he said, referring to the deaths of at least 2 million people in Mao Zedong’s attempt to remake China.
Mr. Edward also noted a statue to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.
“How painfully ironic that a Stalin bust should be included in an American memorial about a seminal event in a historic crusade for freedom,” he said.
The foundation mounted a nationwide petition drive that persuaded the organizers of the D-Day memorial to remove Stalin.
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
• Gen. Oscar Naranjo, commander of the Colombian National Police, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
• Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a German member of the European Parliament, who discusses the “Arab Spring” at a briefing for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
• Marius Fransman, South Africa’s deputy minister of international relations and cooperation who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.