- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

Czech solidarity

Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra remembers being swept up by the Solidarity revolution in neighboring Poland.

In 1980, the 19-year-old student visited the striking Polish workers, marveled at the courage of Solidarity union leader Lech Walesa and learned a valuable lesson about the difference between Czech and Polish dissidents who stood up to communist repression.

In the Czechoslovakia of the time, dissidents were mostly intellectuals. In Poland, they were blue-collar workers.

Mr. Vondra recalled the Solidarity revolution as he watched the fall of Slobodan Milosevic after massive street demonstrations in Serbia.

"It seems that finally the moment of truth came to Belgrade, one of the last bastions of communist dictatorship in Europe," Mr. Vondra wrote in the latest Czech Embassy newsletter.

"Again, it started with strikes. This time in coal mines."

Twenty years ago, strikes in the Gdansk shipyards eventually brought down Polish communism.

"I visited Warsaw and Gdansk and jumped headlong into the joy and rush of the first days of strikes against the communist oppression and in favor of freedom of speech and assembly," Mr. Vondra wrote.

"Meetings and discussions with Solidarity members, many of whom later became my very best friends, had a great influence upon me.

"In Czechoslovakia of that time, the anti-commmunist resistance was a domain of a handful of intellectuals and some young people in the underground.

"But in Poland, we could recognize the power of organized labor."

He said many Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and other young dissidents became "students" of Solidarity. Mr. Walesa was their hero.

"We learned a lot from our Polish friends in the democratic opposition; and because of support from Western countries, the United States in particular, we became stronger," he wrote.

Investing in Lithuania

Lithuanian Ambassador Stasys Sakalauskas is praising a new investment treaty with the United States as another sign of strong bilateral relations.

"The ratification of the pact is another factor encouraging economic as well as political relations between Lithuania and the United States," he said in a statement after the Senate last week approved the treaty.

The agreement provides protection for investments in both countries and creates "better conditions for expansion of economic activities," he said.

The ambassador added that the treaty will encourage the creation of direct U.S. investment and joint-ventures with Lithuanian firms.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• Chia-lung Lin of Taiwan's National Security Council, who joins a panel discussion on Taiwan with invited guests at the American Enterprise Institute.

• Sergei Grigoriants, chairman of the Glasnost Public Foundation and a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He discusses media freedom in Russia with invited guests of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty.

• Judge Albie Sachs of South Africa's Constitutional Court, who addresses American University law students about legal issues in South Africa.


• Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Heinz Moeller, who holds a 9:30 a.m. news conference at the National Press Club.

• Georgio La Malfa, a member of the Italian parliament, who discusses the problems with the euro currency with invited guests at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).


• Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian immigrant to Canada and professor at Toronto University. He discusses Iran intellectuals at SAIS.


• Meron Benvenisti, former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, who discusses the latest violence in the Middles East at SAIS.


• Yuen Ying Chan, director of journalism and media studies at Hong Kong University. She discusses threats to press freedom in Hong Kong with invited guests at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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