Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

The life of Dr Seweryn (Sev) Ozdowski in Australia could only be described as a great migrant success story. Most of his remarkable achievements are displayed on his own website, a little altar which immortalizes his high achievements and triumphs.

Sev Ozdowski, however, is not the only person to admire his own achievements. A visiting historian from Poland, Patryk Pleskot, also fell under his spell.  Pleskot, in the preface to his monograph entitled “Polish – Australian Solidarity”, a biography of Seweryn Ozdowski, writes with evident esteem about the achievements and merits of the hero of his book.

His assessment of Seweryn’s achievements is almost hagiographic:

I will not summarize Ozdowski’s biography here – this is not what this book is about. Suffice it to say that – in my view – no other emigrant from the People’s Republic of Poland (excluding the pre-war generation and people who found themselves outside Poland because of World War II) has not risen so high in the state administration of any Western country as Seweryn. When he came to Australia in 1975, he did not speak English; he lived in a hostel for immigrants. 25 years later he was appointed Commissioner for Human Rights by the Federal Parliament: this position combines the competences of our ombudsman for human rights with ministerial and judicial powers.2

In the next part of the preface, Pleskot expresses even further his admiration for Seweryn’s successful journey in Australia, his contributions to the life of the Polish community in this country and the help he has brought to the Solidarity movement in Poland.

In the following chapters of the book, which is an oral history related by Seweryn Ozdowski, Pleskot describes Seweryn’s life as a journey full of adventures, high points and successes. Patryk Pleskot’s monograph is a biography according to the narrative of Seweryn himself, who during several long, rainy days in February 2013 on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, told Patryk about his life, his parents, people he met and about his career.

Reading this fascinating book, one can only wonder with some sadness why Seweryn Ozdowski did not take advantage of these moments and did not explain to the newly met historian of the Institute of National Remembrance how and why he was registered in the archives of the Institute of National Remembrance as a “secret collaborator with the code name “Osa” – “Wasp” (No. Reg 12747).3

Has Seweryn forgotten this little detail from the past? Perhaps his voluntary confessions would shed more light on this part of his life and help to understand, and what is more – justify what made him become an accomplice with the dreaded Communist Secret Service of the Ministry of the Interior in Poznań.

Perhaps Seweryn did not think that bringing such dirty pages from ancient history out into the open was of any significance. Especially if he knew that the Provincial Police Headquarters in Poznań had officially destroyed his “personal file “t.w.” (Secret Collaborator) in 1986.4 Who then would know about these dark and “insignificant” details from the distant past?

However, it was difficult to wipe out totally the files of the security services of the People’s Republic of Poland and thus this inexplicable side of Seweryn Ozdowski’s activities was additionally registered when he and his wife tried to extend their passports in Germany in 1974.

Here are some  excerpts from a report from the Cologne Intelligence Mission relating to the event:

In 1973, together with his wife, he went on a study tour of Polish diaspora centres scattered around the world, providing a list of people with whom he intended to stay. He justified the trip with academic plans. He intended to visit West Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Austria, India, Indonesia, the USA and Canada. Planned date of return: Summer 1976.

On November 8, 1974 “Osa” sent an appeal to the Department of Complaints and Applications of our Ministry of Interior, querying the negative decision with regard to renewing and validating his passport. The decision in this matter was made by Comrade Rojek. The “subject” gave additional reasons for his request by stating that he was taking up studies at the University of Hamburg and collecting materials necessary to open a doctoral dissertation. The stay in West Germany was extended due to the wife’s pregnancy and the birth of a son. “Osa” stated that he would finish this work by the summer of 1975.

On this occasion, there was an exchange of correspondence between the Provincial Security Headquarters in Poznań and the Consulate in Cologne, and from this exchange we learn about the recruitment and activities of Seweryn Ozdowski as a secret collaborator with the graceful code name “Osa”:

Preparatory verification in recruiting the subject took place after learning he was in receipt of information that he makes available to a small group of people, the literary group of the Paris-based magazine “Kultura”. In the course of operational activities, his links with Catholic social circles and Polish Émigrés in Great Britain and Germany were established, the subject’s family having close contact with clerical groups in Poland. The purpose of obtaining such co-operation was to identify these circles, their institutionalized forms of operation as well as their financing, the recognition of the activity of the Catholic intelligentsia in the country, and operational control of the academic community of AMU (Adam Mickiewicz University), especially of the Faculty of Philosophy and History.

The next step was an interview and recruitment of the “subject”, which, according to the description of the recruiting agent, proceeded without any major problems on his part. According to the same report, co-operation with Seweryn was very good.

The recruitment was made on December 23, 1971 on a voluntary basis. For the period of cooperation with the 3rd Department of the Provincial Headquarters MO in Poznań, until April 1973, he provided 25 pieces of information, 15 of which he wrote himself. They mainly concerned and contained the characteristics of people and described the situation among Polish immigrants in Great Britain; it should be mentioned that He stayed there in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972. Moreover, he provided information on the political attitudes of student youth from the area of the Poznań International Fair. During the latter, he met citizen of West Germany Ebgit Helmut rel. Kleinbroich, born on March 18, 1934. He is a representative of a company dealing in the sale of refractory metallurgical materials; he was supposed to visit our country several times. “Osa” in West Germany knows Daerman Urlich, 404 Neuss Einteinstr. 108 and Wagner-Buxa Kostia, 3400 Gottingen, Ernst Faulbusch Str 2. There is a document “W” from D.U ,. in which he guarantees the subject and his wife would find a job upon arrival.5

It is rather interesting to note that Seweryn Ozdowski did not provide information to the security services for patriotic reasons alone but also, at least from time to time, he accepted payments for his services to improve his modest income. We learn about this fact when the intelligence mission at the consulate planned to persuade Seweryn to stay in West Germany and stop thinking about going to Australia as Germany was the main area of interest for the Ministry of the Interior’s intelligence.

Establishing contact can be strengthened by a cooperation commitment signed by the secret collaborator “Osa”. It should also be added that his personal file includes receipts for payments made by the subject himself.6

In the end, according to a story told by Seweryn Ozdowski himself, passports were denied to him and his wife, but he sharply rejected any hint of cooperation as an informer with the authorities of the Polish People’s Republic:

We were offered one more solution. After our passports were not renewed and we appealed against the decision, a guy called our apartment in Hamburg. He introduced himself as a diplomat (probably from the Polish mission in Cologne) and suggested a meeting to discuss our case. We invited him to our place in the late afternoon, I even bought a bottle of wine for this occasion.
This diplomat, a young man, came at the appointed time. Well, the conversation was quite nice. He declared his understanding and supported our efforts. He argued that we were entitled to this passport and wondered what could be done. At one point, in a casual tone, he said, “Well, it would be worthwhile for us to meet once a month and talk about topics that may be of mutual interest.” It became obvious to us that this guy was inviting us to become informants. It was out of the question. We said we were not interested.7

What prompted Seweryn to reject the proposal that would make it easier for him to extend his passport? Where did these sudden and noble ethical objections come from, which did not appear previously in Poland?

According to the PRL (the Polish People’s Republic) intelligence report, the situation was a bit different:

After analysing the documents, operational instruction No. C/ 05/75 was sent to the residency in Cologne, with suggestions to contact “Wasp” and with a list of matters requiring clarification. On 03/03, contact with the subject was established by “Fob”.
During the conversation, he established that in May 1975 “Osa” was going with his wife and son to Sydney to complete his doctoral studies. He cannot stay in Germany any longer due to his unresolved residential status. In the event of a negative settlement of his passport matters, he intends to leave for the USA, applying for a change of citizenship.
Due to the plans of settling down of “Osa” in Australia, the case was passed on to Section IV, Dept. I, but they, however, did not undertake to maintain any further action.
The departure of “Osa” to an area of no interest to Sector 5, Dept. I, means that he cannot be included in the implementation of our operational goals. I request that the case be submitted to the archives of Department I of the Interior Ministry.8

What was the truth?
I leave the final judgment to the reader.

2. Pleskot, Patryk, Polska – Australia „Solidarność”, Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, Warszawa 2014, p.8
3. IPN File: Ozdowski Seweryn, IPN-BU-01136-652-D, p.15
4. IPN File: Disposal of records Nr 63, IPN PO-00169-69, 583
5. IPN-BU-01136-652-D, pp.15-17
6. Ibidem pp. 17-18
7. Pleskot, ibidem, pp,53-54
8. IPN-BU-01136-652-D, pp. 28-29

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

“Do as I preach but not as I do” kinda guy, isn’t he?