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Jack Strong ( Film about Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski )


sobieski 107 | 2,129
3 Mar 2014  #1
We went to see "Jack Strong" this weekend. Remarkable movie, very well made about a genuine heroe.
A movie about real people. Gives you a splendid view of how the elite lived in Poland in PRL times...And how they were connected to the Soviets.

But col. Ryszard Kukliński still divides Polish society...
I have friends who refuse to go watch it - her husband considers him to be a traitor (as a considerable number of Poles do, surprisingly)

I consider him to be in the same mould of Klaus von Stauffenberg. They both made a career in the system, until they realized the system was not worth living for anymore. They both risked their lives and their family's live. Both of them are admired and despised even now.

Kukliński had the luck to be extracted just in time.

As I said, remarkable movie.
frd 7 | 1,399
3 Mar 2014  #2
I've seen the movie as well and liked it. I don't have a solid point of view on Kuklinski, which is good cause I don't need to get myself into petty squables. I really liked how Polish brass was portrayed - drunk, shabby, podgy bunch of random guys, especially next to the cookie cutter menacing Russians....
Babinich 1 | 455
4 Mar 2014  #3
There is an excellent book about the man: amazon.com/Secret-Life-Officer-Mission-Country/dp/1586483056
frd 7 | 1,399
4 Mar 2014  #4
Looks really interesting, thanks for the link. I especially like the fact that it wasn't written by a Pole...
goofy_the_dog
4 Mar 2014  #5
Well a good analogy would be that some Germans still think German generals bomb attack on Adolf Hitl;er was a betrayal of Germany :)
Kuklinski is a Polish Hero, and thats it. Period.
jon357 63 | 14,076
4 Mar 2014  #6
That's it for you maybe. I've heard plenty enough people express the opposite opinion and even more people say that it's a grey area.

Nobody likes it when a soldier or other public official breaks their oath. Especially when their colleagues don't.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
4 Mar 2014  #7
Nobody likes it when a soldier or other public official breaks their oath. Especially when their colleagues don't

So, if a Nazi in a concentration camp carries out atrocities but 'explains' "I was just following orders, I didn't want to break my oath" that's OK with you is it? Must follow orders at all costs, yeah?

Reminds me of this: spring.org.uk/2007/02/stanley-milgram-obedience-to-authority.php

Kuklinski was most definitely a hero. All else is bunk.
jon357 63 | 14,076
4 Mar 2014  #8
Did Kuklinski commit atrocities and then say "I was only obeying orders", as you weakly analogise? No. He did however commit treason. We don't laud Blunt, Maclean, Vass etc as heroes (unless we're extreme anti-establishment). We do however expect that an army officer does not pass on strategic information to the other side, no matter how noble he believed his intentions were.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
4 Mar 2014  #9
Did Kuklinski commit atrocities and then say "I was only obeying orders", as you weakly analogise? No

Didn't he prevent atrocities? Wouldn't those atrocities have led to a situation where it's likely many of us would not even be alive today? That's not a hero in your book? Isn't it a soldier's duty to prevent the death of innocents? Streuth ! :o(
Jardinero 1 | 394
4 Mar 2014  #10
a genuine heroe.

I have yet to see the film, but I beg to differ. At the end of the day he was spying for a foreign power, and he was not doing it for free mind you, so his motives were not purely patriotic...
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
4 Mar 2014  #11
and did not do so for free,

Not my words, but many will suggest to you that talk of him taking money is propaganda. Decide for yourself, obviously.

He never signed an agreement, unlike most spies. He did not take any money for his work. His motivation was not to help America, but to help Poland with America's assistance. He was not approached. It was Kuklinski himself who came to the Americans. He asked for nothing but equipment (some was specifically invented for him, like the precursor to the Blackberry, a mobile text sending device). When he was smuggled out of Poland he had to leave almost everything behind.

rlisu.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/the-spy-who-saved-the-world-the-tragedy-of-colonel-kuklinski
jon357 63 | 14,076
5 Mar 2014  #12
Didn't he prevent atrocities?

No.

Wouldn't those atrocities have led to a situation where it's likely many of us would not even be alive today?

No

At the end of the day he was spying for a foreign power

Yes.

Remember that the Cambridge Four were acting out of political conviction and for what they believed was the good of their country. We still regard them as traitors as many, many people in Poland regard Kuklinski as a traitor.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
5 Mar 2014  #13
many people in Poland regard Kuklinski as a traitor.

I'll grant you that.

For years, polling organizations surveyed public opinion about Kuklinski as if the statistics held national political significance. In fact, they reflected change and continuity in the political landscape. Poland has advanced further than any other former Soviet Bloc country toward democracy and free-market economics, yet it has done less than most in coming to terms with its Communist past.

cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/summer00/art03.html

After he saw that the Soviet plans basically assumed that Poland, as a vital communication line, would be nuked back to the stone age in an event of a war with the West, he did everything possible to prevent that. It must be remembered that this was the time of the Vietnam war. The US Army was in crisis in the early 70′s. Its eyes not properly focused on Europe and the Soviet threat. The US needed to match the Soviets on the ground.

rlisu.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/the-spy-who-saved-the-world-the-tragedy-of-colonel-kuklinski/
jon357 63 | 14,076
5 Mar 2014  #14
So in effect, during the Cold War he was passing defence secrets to the other side. Not great.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
5 Mar 2014  #15
Who were the other side? The free West, seeking to defeat the oppression of communism, or some other 'side'? Did people have a choice but to live under communism? I was told they had to live under communism whether they wanted to or not. So, if someone sought to break that oppression and as in this case avert a catastrophic war, it was a bad thing in some people's eyes as the polls and your posts suggest. But, I don't agree. I couldn't disagree more, in fact, based on what I've read. If you have an alternative version of things, please feel free to post a link and I'll be pleased to see if I can truly grasp this alternative viewpoint of his as anything other than a hero.
jon357 63 | 14,076
5 Mar 2014  #16
Who were the other side?

The ones he was spying against his country for.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
5 Mar 2014  #17
Seems more likely to me that he did in fact do what he did for Poland, actually -- the Poland that existed before communism was introduced without an election. Unless, of course, a majority of Poland's population voted in communist rule. Otherwise, if you're just handed a situation and told to get on with it, him being labelled a traitor doesn't stack up at all, except in the eyes of people who derived some benefit from communism and were sad to see it go. Of course, such people did well under communism, and they probably still exist today, as do their relatives in various countries and descendants.
jon357 63 | 14,076
5 Mar 2014  #18
Who knows what factors truly influenced his decision. He may or may not have justified his treason in whatever way he liked. It makes not one jot of difference, nor did it convince the thousands of other army officers who kept the military secrets to which they were entrusted.

You see, Inwroclaw, that's the thing about an oath. You keep it. That's the whole point of taking one. It is not a negotiable thing that you can secretly break just because you want to.The traitor Kuklinski seems to have believed that helping the capitalists on the other side was important to him for ideological reasons. Some other traitor may feel today that passing secrets to China is important. Another may feel today that the Germans were right and look for a regime with the same values to pass information to. All have betrayed the same solemn promise.
Harry
5 Mar 2014  #19
the Poland that existed before communism was introduced without an election.

You mean the one where the government was a dictatorship without a dictator and people who objected to that were sent to a concentration camp?
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
5 Mar 2014  #20
solemn promise.

Oppression is clearly wrong. Starting a war rather than defending from one is wrong. Preventing those things is in no way anything other than heroic. Solemn promises or oaths to people (or more precisely, leadership groups) who took power without the sworn person electing them? No such thing. It's like someone squatting in my house with menaces and yet you telling me off for phoning the old bill when they went to the loo.

You mean the one where the government was a dictatorship without a dictator and people who objected to that were sent to a concentration camp?

1918-1939 wasn't known as free Poland, ie RPII? Could you please elaborate on the concentration camps you mention, pre WWII? The history I know of suggests Poland was free, some sort of struggle as has often been the case, but essentially free. I'd be grateful if you'd fill in the blanks that you believe I'm missing.
jon357 63 | 14,076
5 Mar 2014  #21
No such thing

There's every such thing. He wasn't forced into becoming an army officer; nobody made him take his oath. it was his decision to serve his country, even though he eventually betrayed it by passing secrets to a foreign power. Others may have criticisms of this or that system however most don't pass military secrets to a 'handler'.

Could you please elaborate on the concentration camps you mention, pre WWII?

Despite the whole post that was taken from sounding rather disingenuous, to save the person you were replying from the trouble, I refer you to the search function here when the 1930's camps have been discussed in detail. The best known of them was the infamous Bereza Kartuszka.

But hey, someone in today's army might think that pre-war Poland with its military regime, race quotas and camps was better than the modern democracy. Perhaps you'd try to excuse them spying for a regime closer to their ideal.
Jardinero 1 | 394
5 Mar 2014  #22
I think he is referring to the detention camp in the Bereza Kartuska prison created for the political opponents of the Mościcki government.

When talking about the II RP and democracy, remember Józef Piłsudski's 1926 coup d'état (the May Coup - 215 soldiers and 164 civilians had been killed)? Moreover, it is astounding how few Poles themselves remember that the first ever democratically elected president of Poland (Gabriel Narutowicz - BTW what a remarkable person when you read his biography) had been assassinated thanks to the right extremists only five days after taking office in 1922! That too often forgotten fact alone speaks volumes about the state of 'democracy' in II RP...
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
5 Mar 2014  #23
Bereza Kartuszka

It was a prison AFAIK, not a concentration camp. Most countries have prisons, for better or worse.

I'm not sure about how Kuklinski got into the army, but even if he signed up willingly, if he then discovered plans for an offensive war and so forth, his obligation to humanity overrides all else. Just as any Nazi concentration camp guard can't hide behind talk of oaths and orders either. There was no excuse for exterminating camp inmates, no excuse for even harming them. Most were innocents. I'm sure you'd agree their oaths or orders were worthless too. And that's regardless of how those Nazis got their office.

I don't expect you to agree. I don't expect everyone reading the history of Poland 1918-39 to think it sounds like a barrel of laughs either, because it likely wasn't. But that doesn't mean what came post WWII was the solution. And more importantly, that supposed solution wasn't voted in. Therefore, that Poland wasn't 'his country'. It's quite reasonable to expect the actions he took were to get things back to the Poland he could consider 'his country' (and in the process, thwart an offensive). Ultimately, it boils down to whether someone thinks communism was good or bad, when they judge Kuklinski. Talk of 'breaking oaths' is a sideshow.
Harry
5 Mar 2014  #24
I think he is referring to the detention camp in the Bereza Kartuska prison created for the political opponents of the Mościcki government.

No, I'm referring to what was described by British media both before and after WWII as the concentration camp at Bereza Kartuska. We can argue whether Kuklinski was a hero or a traitor but it's beyond debate that Bereza Kartuska was a concentration camp.
jon357 63 | 14,076
5 Mar 2014  #25
Nonsense, unfortunately. It was a camp where the regime interned their political enemies. What it was about is very well-documented.

As for the traitor Kuklinski, there's no issue about "even if". He became an army officer willingly and certainly didn't ''discover plans for an offensive war''. He was however privy to some of his country's defence secrets and passed them on - over a period of years - to his handlers.

Interesting that almost all of his fellow officers managed not to betray their country.
szczecinianin 4 | 345
5 Mar 2014  #26
It could be argued that Kuklinski served Poland whereas his fellow officers served a foreign power. However, being a Stalinist, you are unlikely to see things that way.
ShawnH 8 | 1,497
5 Mar 2014  #27
Interesting that almost all of his fellow officers managed not to betray their country.

And anybody with a "Western Bent" perspective would call him a courageous, true Polish patriot.
Lenka 2 | 1,135
5 Mar 2014  #28
Well, in my mum's opinion (I leave her the final vote- she lived in that period) he was a traitor. He sold the country he was supposed to serve.
jon357 63 | 14,076
5 Mar 2014  #29
And there we have it. There are two opposite opinions about him. One that he was right to betray his oath and pass on his countries secrets to the other side, and one that he was right because the other side was at that time dominated by the US.

Until I'd spent a bit of time talking with army officers (who universally condemned him) I took the latter view. But an officer's oath is to his country - not to some alternative vision he has of his country's politics. Which is why Kuklinski is so reviled by many, as is Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.
ShawnH 8 | 1,497
5 Mar 2014  #30
Which is why Kuklinski is so reviled by many, as is Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.

And add to that list Edward Snowden...


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