BY PETER SCHUTZ

No escaping the past


The topic of lustration and informers has once again taken on a regional dimension. Slovakia again is consumed with the fate of "Špirituál" [the communist secret service code-name of Archbishop Ján Sokol), while Hungary has been rocked by the statement of its Constitutional Court that church dignitaries are public officials, the mega-scandal of Archbishop Wielgus has triggered "the deepest crisis in the Polish church in a decade", and not a day goes by in the Czech Republic that the media does not expose another agent. Is there something going on, or is this just a collection of coincidences and a kind of climate change?

The topic of lustration and informers has once again taken on a regional dimension. Slovakia again is consumed with the fate of "Špirituál" [the communist secret service code-name of Archbishop Ján Sokol), while Hungary has been rocked by the statement of its Constitutional Court that church dignitaries are public officials, the mega-scandal of Archbishop Wielgus has triggered "the deepest crisis in the Polish church in a decade", and not a day goes by in the Czech Republic that the media does not expose another agent. Is there something going on, or is this just a collection of coincidences and a kind of climate change?

Although it is clear that in every former communist country this boom has different roots, in keeping with variations in legislation and access to archives, all of these stories have the same moral: you cannot escape the past. Pressure, persecution and crimes occurred, and had concrete victims and perpetrators who are still alive. It is natural that all of these injustices and betrayals have come out and will continue to surface in the future. The wounds of the past will never heal until we talk face to face, speak the truth and achieve some kind of catharsis or satisfaction. This is true of each country involved, whether or not the timing of such revelations also serves political or other ends.

Cooperation with the political police was a contemptible thing, and informing on one's neighbours has always been seen as a kind of moral failure. We just have to remember that the people who recruited and directed the informers are guilty of far greater crimes. It will be an enormous injustice if the current focus on informers helps to mask the acts of those behind and above them, including the members of the Communist Party, who gave the orders in the first place.


Sme,
February 14

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