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Maria Kaczynska: 'Misfortunes Allow Us To Know What Fortune Is'

Poland's first lady Maria Kaczynska lost her life in the plane crash in western Russia on April 10, which killed her husband, President Lech Kaczynski, and 94 others. Her body arrived back in Warsaw today. In April 2007, RFE/RL's Georgian Service correspondent Nino Gelashvili spoke to Kaczynska about her life as the wife of a Solidarity activist and then first lady.

RFE/RL: When we read your biography we saw that you sacrificed your career and decided to devote time to your husband and baby. What do you remember about that time?

Maria Kaczynska:
It was an unusual situation -- my daughter had just been born a few weeks before the outbreak [of protests] in the Solidarity shipyard in June 1980. Then the August events [the protests] happened, and my husband participated in them.

At the time, I was on maternity leave, and the Solidarity movement was taking shape -- my husband was very much involved. We lived by ourselves, with no family, in Sopot. A little baby, too. Then the martial law [was declared] and my husband was interned for almost a year, exactly 10 months. I had lots of friends at the time but still, there was a little baby.

My husband was released; the struggle went underground again.... He was hardly ever home because he was so involved in the underground struggle. I could return to work, enroll my child in kindergarten…. But the times were difficult. I knew [foreign] languages, I could give lessons, and I could work at home doing translations. It was not like I gave up work entirely.

I was considering the options -- what was better for me? -- to go to work, leave the child, and then rush back home. But without me, home wouldn’t have existed, as my husband was not there either. So what was better?

So, simply, I did not sacrifice anything at the time. It was my choice, I chose home and independent work so as not to be dependant on anyone. Now...young people can make careers, they travel, get promoted. We say that it’s some kind of...a rat race.

I was so happy I could be a mother, I could raise a child, I was satisfied that I was with my baby.

RFE/RL: Did you feel lucky to be living through such historic times, bringing up a child when there was so much changing?

These were historic times...but also interesting, yes, historically very interesting. I used to have a lot of friends at the time that I would see often.

Yes, of course, we would cry our eyes out sometimes because there was a lack of this or that…. I think it was very interesting. Living through challenging times enriches us. If it was good all the time then we would not appreciate it when it gets better…. Misfortunes allow us to know what fortune is.

RFE/RL: Are you satisfied with the way things are when it comes to women's issues in Poland? Do Polish women have an impact on political decisions? Now, the abortion issue has been widely discussed.

Well, personally as the wife of the president, I’m not involved in political activity. Yes, there are women who are very active in the Sejm [lower chamber of parliament]. There are so-called feminists, there are more-or-less radical [women] and they work proactively. How successful are they? Sure, they do influence things as there are a lot of women in the Sejm. They make decisions…. Personally, I prefer to stay aside as it’s not my role, I believe. I do not want to hinder things...

I can’t, I can't join in and make my opinions known -- after all I am neither a president nor a prime minister…. I can have my own beliefs. If I were free, perhaps I would speak up.

Translated by Anna Zamejc