Konstanty did not hold back when he confronted Shamir

KONSTANTY Gebert is not one for holding back. He once confronted Yitzhak Shamir, then Israel’s prime minister, for claiming Poles were inherently antisemitic.

Konstanty was also at the founding of Poland’s formidable Solidarity trade union movement and worked as an underground journalist in the 1980s.

His determination in standing up to communist Poland — and helping to build democracy in the country as the Iron Curtain fell — is, perhaps, rooted in his family background.

Konstanty’s mother, Krystyna (nee Poznanska) came from a liberal and assimilated middle-class Jewish background.

She joined the underground communist movement in the 1930s and, after fleeing Warsaw when the Nazis invaded, she moved to the eastern part of Poland which was occupied by the Soviet Union, eventually becoming a solider in the Polish army.

“She fought with a gun in her hand for my right to be born,” Konstanty told me from his home in Warsaw. “She was a hero.”

Konstanty’s father, Boleslaw, was born into a Catholic peasant family. In 1912 he emigrated to America, where he became a labour organiser and one of the founders of the Communist Party of the USA.

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