Polish prime minister’s father and former top dissident dies

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Kornel Morawiecki, the father of Poland’s prime minister who was also the country’s most senior lawmaker and a leading dissident during the communist era, has died. He was 78.

Morawiecki died in a Warsaw government hospital Monday following a long illness.

His son, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, on Friday cut short a campaign meeting for scheduled Oct. 13 parliamentary elections to be with his father whose health had rapidly deteriorated.

The prime minister’s office confirmed the death.

Poland’s most powerful politician, ruling party head Jaroslaw Kaczynski expressed “great sorrow” and described Morawiecki as an “outstanding freedom activist” and a “steadfast person.”

European Council President Donald Tusk, who was Poland’s premier in 2007-2014, tweeted words of sympathy to Mateusz Morawiecki, who is his political foe.

U.S. Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher tweeted to extend condolences to the prime minister.

Kornel Morawiecki, who had the title of senior parliament speaker, was recently awarded Poland’s highest distinction, the Order of the White Eagle, for decades of service to democratic Poland.

In the 1980s, he founded the Fighting Solidarity group, which fought against communist rule and opposed any negotiations or deal with the regime. The group was an uncompromising splinter off the nationwide pro-democracy Solidarity movement. His son Mateusz, then a teenager, was an activist.

He went into hiding after communist authorities imposed martial law to crack down on the pro-democracy movement in December 1981, and was involved in clandestine printing of anti-communist brochures. He changed his hideouts some 50 times before being caught in 1987 and put in prison for months. The communists then forcefully deported him abroad. After a few months in Austria, Italy and the U.S. he surreptitiously returned to Poland under an assumed name.

Black-and white footage on state TVP showed the moment of his deportation. Morawiecki is seen refusing to climb the steps to the plane and secret security plainclothes men lead him up by force.

Morawiecki was critical of Solidarity’s 1989 round table talks with the regime that peacefully ousted the communists from power. To him, it was a deal that only marginally improved the communist system but failed to end it.

No funeral arrangements were immediately made public.

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