In late January 1993 three years after the abolition of the Soviet-imposed Polish People’s Republic – a crowd of 5,000 demonstrators marched on the Warsaw residence of Lech Wa??sa.
As the chairman of Solidarity – the independent trade union and mass opposition movement that negotiated communist Poland’s demise – Wa??sa is widely credited with initiating the chain of events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and a peaceful resolution to the cold war.
But after he became post-communist Poland’s first democratically elected president his critics circulated rumours that he had been a communist collaborator all along.
Chanting ‘We want a president not an agent’ the demonstrators burnt the Nobel peace prizewinner in effigy.
Their leaders included a former Solidarity functionary called Jaros?aw Kaczy?ski.
Armed with a megaphone he angrily denounced his former leader: ‘He was supposed to be our president but he turned out to be their president – the president of the reds!’
Short white-haired and always dressed in black and white Kaczy?ski is now the most powerful man in Poland.
In 2015 the party he founded with his identical twin brother Lech – Law and Justice – won the first parliamentary majority for a single party since the democratic transition – since then, it stands accused of attempting to reverse that transition by seizing control of Poland’s independent democratic institutions.
Although Kaczy?ski holds no office other than his seat in parliament and the chairmanship of his party – President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szyd?o are entirely beholden to his patronage.
Law and Justice’s eminence grise – part Yoda – part Karl Lagerfeld – runs a country of almost 40 million people from his party office in central Warsaw.