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 Whistleblowers Need Protection



Chapter 5 - GERMAN JAIL

The door of the plane opened and portable steps were slowly rolled up to the doorway. One of the flight attendants went outside to speak to the police waiting on the stairs. After a few minutes, she came up to Paszkowski and Staszek and said, "You're in Munich and the German police say that if you want you can get out of the plane."

Both men rose carefully, keeping their hands in full sight. Paszkowski, carrying the gift basket in one hand, the "bomb" in the other and followed closely by Staszek, moved cautiously into the aisle.

The passengers on the Polish airplane could finally get a good look at their hijackers. The two walked slowly towards the exit, the sound of a pair of hands clapping startled them. As they continued, the lone pair of hands built into a rousing crescendo of applause and cheering which followed them triumphantly outside.

Once outside the plane, the police immediately took them into custody and escorted them to their headquarters. On the way, Paszkowski managed to tell them the bomb was a fake and that he and Staszek were requesting political asylum in West Germany. Their first night of freedom was spent in a German jail.

The guards gave us some food and I fell asleep right after eating. I had this nightmare. I was trying to cross the border and I was chased by vicious guards and eventually caught. The next morning, reality sank in. This was the end of running away, we are in West Germany -- `in the West'.

We were taken to the jail in Munich where we were to stay until the trial - probably in a few months time. Staszek and I were separated and could only shout through the windows outside to communicate. The guards would order us to stop, `Hey, Yugoslavs, be quiet!' They couldn't even distinguish Polish from Serbo-Croatian.

The jail was a tower of Babel, full of Turks, Yugoslavs, Italians, Americans and others. The conditions were very good. It was a clean, orderly run place with great food. The guards kept their distance and did not try to provoke the prisoners.

I improved my German in jail a lot, reading and talking with Germans daily. One had to be careful though about what one said to other prisoners, because it would immediately be passed on to the guards. Most German prisoners cooperated with the guards in order to get special privileges.

The Yugoslavs were a very tightly knit national group, ready to defend each other. During those days it didn't matter from what republic they were; if one of them got into a fight with a German, the rest would run to help. Most of the Yugoslavs were arrested for stealing. They insisted they were only attempting to get back what the Nazi's stole from their country during World War II. The Yugoslavs seemed to like Staszek and me, partly because we were all Slavs. They called me `bratko', meaning brother.

Once, when Staszek was trying to communicate with me using a finger alphabet which we both know, the guards stopped him, asking what he was doing. The Yugoslav prisoners in the group circled the guard and politely explained that Staszek was only exercising his fingers. The guard left Staszek alone, thus allowing us to continue passing messages.

In the prison workshop, I noticed an East German called Wolfgang who seemed to want to approach me, but was somewhat timid. He kept his distance, only occasionally greeting me and asking how I was. I asked the Yugoslavs who he was. "He's an East German agent caught spying in West Germany. He is often visited by officials from East Germany", replied one of them.

I had a feeling that Polish Intelligence was using Wolfgang to get in touch with me. In the Polish press, the hijacking was described as a dramatic event with powerful bombs and explosives being used. Staszek and I were painted as cruel and brutal terrorists who had threatened the passengers and crew with physical violence. They didn't use our names in the newspapers; we were just nameless terrorists.

My suspicions about Wolfgang were finally proved correct. One day, when passing by the workshop, he turned to me and said quickly, "Your friends in Warsaw send greetings."

"I have no friends in Warsaw", I replied and walked away. It was obvious to me that the Polish Intelligence Service was trying to communicate with me. I wondered what they wanted. Though I wasn't afraid of them, I felt secure in the West German jail. The feeling that they were watching me and following my ever step made me uneasy.

In February, 1983, the case for hijacking against Paszkowski and Staszek came to trial. For three days, the witnesses - the German police and the two hijackers - gave their testimony. The forceful confinement and kidnapping charges were dropped and they were charged with air piracy. As a result, the sentence would be far less severe. Only in court did the accused learn that more than half of the passengers travelling on the hijacked plane with them had decided to stay in West Germany and seek asylum from Poland.

In his summation, the judge stressed the exceptional solidarity of the two hijackers. Not only did neither at any time attempt to lay blame on the other, as is usually the case, but each of them seemed almost eager to take a larger blame for planning the event. They were both sentenced to equal time of four and a half years, including time already served. This meant three more years in German jails for each as it was then the West German practice to allow first-time offenders to serve only two-thirds of their sentence.

After the trial, both were transferred to the penal institution in Landsberg, Bavaria, where Hitler was held in the 1920s. Wolfgang was already there doing six to seven years for spying. This time, the two Poles were not kept isolated from each other as before, but were even given adjacent cells.

One guard who prided himself on knowing everything about everybody, who was known as the prison's `ear', did not like the exceptional friendship of Paszkowski and Staszek. He kept asking Paszkowski questions about Staszek and was irritated when Ryszard refused to respond and sent him to Staszek for answers. The guard's frustration at being unable to find any gossip about the newest inmates was probably the catalyst that caused Paszkowski's eventual removal from Landsberg prison.

Paszkowski was sent to the correctional facility at Bernau, a picturesque resort for American troops stationed in West Germany. An exceptionally well-behaved prisoner, he soon earned the trust of the prison authorities and was assigned to work with a group of ten German prisoners outside the jail. The work was to maintain the grounds of the resort compound for the American troops and their families: mowing lawns, trimming bushes and hedges, and so on. The prison authorities were not afraid that Paszkowski might want to escape. After all, he wouldn't divert a flight to West Germany, they reasoned, only now to attempt to escape. It would be easy to do so though. The one guard who was assigned to watch them was unarmed and Paszkowski could move freely about the compound.

The ever-enterprising Pole soon began a business supplying inmates with liquor and beer, which were forbidden. They paid for it with money they had hidden away. His trading quickly prospered. Paszkowski would buy alcohol at the American store cheaper than in German outlets; then he would hide the bottles in bushes in marked places. The inmates, when not watched by guards, would pick up the bottles and quickly drink the beer.

On one exceptionally hot day, Paszkowski was doing his shopping at the American compound. "Who are you?", came a voice behind him. He tensed, thinking he had been caught red-handed. Turning slowly around, he faced a tall middle-aged man in the uniform of an American colonel. He appeared to be drunk, swinging his hips and struggling to keep his eyes open.

"I'm with a group of prisoners who trim the hedges", Paszkowski replied in German.

"What are you doing time for?" continued the American stepping back as if he wanted to take a better look at Paszkowski.

"Together with my friend, I hijacked a Polish plane from Budapest to Munich."

The American appeared to be agitated to hear that, but asked the other to have a drink with him. They sat at the bar, Paszkowski nervously checking to see if the guard was around. "Tell me about it," the American asked. "It sounds interesting." Having heard a short version of Paszkowski's story, he commented, "You should try to escape. Young, bright people like you shouldn't rot in a German jail!"

Paszkowski eagerly nodded, not wanting to agitate his drunken companion, "Yeah, yeah, you're right", he added.

"Escape from this rat hole and go to America. You can go places there", the American continued with that strange persistence only the intoxicated can display. He described eagerly the advantages of life in his homeland.

Paszkowski waited impatiently for him to finish, got up, thanked him for the drink and left. The American's talk amused him, yet there was some underlying message in it that struck a chord. He did not feel close to Germany. There was no emotional bond or feeling of loyalty. He could see only too well that behind the cool courtesy of many Germans there was a deep xenophobia. Paszkowski was treated well in jail by the German guards and German inmates, yet he knew it wasn't because of any affection for him. In jail, as in a jungle, survival of the fittest was the prevalent law. The inmates had respect for Paszkowski because he had proven his strength and would stand up to any fight. Definitely, Germany was not the country he would like to live in forever. Where else then? And how to do it? Another three years in jail was a long time for someone as impulsive and impatient as Paszkowski. On the other hand, if he escaped, Interpol would search for him because of the nature of his offense.

From that moment on, Paszkowski toyed with the idea of escape. He could not go into it unprepared. He would need documents and money in order to elude the German police and Interpol. He made some money selling illegal alcohol to inmates who didn't have day passes to work outside. As customers paid him four times the price of a bottle, Paszkowski managed to put money aside, but hardly enough to carry out any lofty plans.

As a model inmate, Paszkowski had earned the right to unescorted day passes. The problem was he needed someone who would pick him up and be responsible for him, somebody without a jail record. Paszkowski did not know a single person in West Germany of whom he could ask this favour. Finally, he approached a German Catholic priest with his problem even though he was afraid he would be stuck on Saturdays or Sundays with some grandmother knitting a sweater while he held her ball of wool. The priest laughed heartily when Paszkowski told him about his fears and suggested a different solution. He called a Polish priest in Munich, Father Jerzy Galinski, who agreed without hesitation to pick up Paszkowski the following Saturday at the prison.

The next Saturday morning, Galinski came to the jail as Paszkowski's escort and drove him to Munich to his parish. There he introduced Paszkowski to two recent Polish immigrants who offered to take him for a ride and show him around Munich. The priest gave him 100 German marks in case he needed it and his escorts were told to drive him back to jail at Bernau in the evening; it was 80 kilometres from Munich.

The three young men went downtown with the priest's blessing. Paszkowski, however, wasn't enthusiastic about sightseeing. Having been in jail for two years now, the first thing he wanted was a woman. He'd seen much pornographic material in jail and constantly read about the loose sex life of the Germans in the papers. He wanted a taste of it. In addition to the 100 marks Father Galinski had given him, he had some of his illegally earned money from prison.

"Forget about the museums you guys. Take me to a brothel - a good one", he told his companions, who had no problem finding one quickly.

"Wait for me in the bar", Paszkowski said as he entered the building. Inside, he negotiated a price with the madame and chose a prostitute of his liking, pointing at her in the crowded waiting-room. The two disappeared into one of the adjoining rooms and 15 minutes later, Paszkowski left to meet his two escorts in the bar. "That didn't take you too long! Was it express service?", they joked. The three spent the rest of the day sightseeing. In the evening, as required, Paszkowski reported back to the prison. His escorts promised to pick him up in a month for his next day pass.

A week before the next eagerly-awaited pass, as Paszkowski worked in the American compound with an electric hedge-trimmer, an older-looking man came up and said in Polish, "Dzien dobry" (good day). Paszkowski looked around. He was working alone in a distant corner of the compound, which wasn't fenced and was therefore easily accessible from the main highway. He decided to ignore the stranger and continued working. He stayed aware of his surroundings to make sure the man was alone, although he could easily overwhelm this grandfather with the hedge-trimmer if necessary. He stayed on the alert, awaiting the visitor's next move.

"Hey, Mr. Paszkowski, you didn't forget the Polish language did you?", asked the man when Paszkowski didn't respond to his greetings.

"No, I didn't", came the quick response, "What do you want?".

"I want to talk to you like friends do."

"I don't have any friends here; nor do I look for any", said Paszkowski and turned away.

Leaning closer, the old fellow continued, "I was sent by our common friend, Wladyslaw Bielach." It all became clear suddenly; the hated SB was still after him. Bielach knew what he was doing when he sent an older man as a messenger; he knew Paszkowski would have immediately fought with a younger man.

Instead of beating the messenger as Paszkowski longed to do, he replied, "Tell Bielach to buzz off. I don't want to have anything to do with him or you." Paszkowski began working again, throwing an occasional glance at the man who stood there for a moment, murmuring something under his breath, and then calmly walked away down the path.

Two days later, while again mowing an isolated stretch of lawn alone, Paszkowski saw the old man in the distance. "The son-of-a-bitch sticks to me like a leech!", he cursed as he watched the other approaching. This time, the other had an offer. "Why don't you try to escape during your next day pass on July 21st? We'll help you." The guy even knew the date. The SB's prison source was doing a good job, Paszkowski noted to himself. He also must have been told by the same prison informant how unhappy Paszkowski and Staszek had been about the long sentences imposed by the German court. In Austria, both read recently in the newspapers, the courts had given suspended sentences to Polish hijackers, who in fact used violence.

As if he could read Paszkowski's thoughts, the old man commented on how severely the Germans had dealt with them, and how senseless it was for such a skilled and highly-trained person to spend the best years of his life in jail. He told Paszkowski the SB needed him for a job in France and would supply him with new documents, money and contacts.

Paszkowski thought quickly. This might be the break he needed to help him escape. He could use the SB to help him get out of prison, using the documents and money they provided to him. Once out of Germany, he would elude them again. He wasn't going to work for the SB ever again at any price.

I was planning to break out of the jail anyway, so the grandfather's offer came in handy. The SB could get me over international borders in a few hours without any problems. I had no scruples using the SB, knowing their methods of operation. They thought they could lure me back into the service; after all I was a trained agent they could use for their operations abroad. Who better to use for a double agent than someone who had so publicly `escaped' from Poland by hijacking a plane. By helping me escape from jail and putting me on their payroll again, they thought I would be so dependent on them for protection from Interpol that they could make me do anything they wanted.

"Okay, I agree. Help me get out of here and I'll work for you." The old man smiled at Paszkowski. They shook hands, then moved closer together to work out the details of the plan.

It was decided he would attempt the escape when on a day pass escorted by Father Galinski in Munich. Paszkowski was to shake off his escorts and join the SB agents who would follow them in a car. Father Galinski himself came the following Saturday to pick him up and drive him to Munich where they met up with the same two companions from the earlier pass. Once again the three younger men went to do some sightseeing, closely followed by the SB grandfather in a green Opel.

Paszkowski asked his companions to take him to a brothel of his choice. "Some inmates said it has the best prostitutes in town", he said. His two companions would wait for him in a bar nearby. Paszkowski went into the new brothel and had a drink at the bar there. Then, telling the barman that some suspicious looking men had followed him, he asked to be let out through the back door. After discreetly placing 20 marks in the bartender's hand, he was lead through the premises to the back door which opened onto another street. There in a light-coloured parked Mercedes with Frankfurt license plates sat the old man and another, younger agent.

Paszkowski quickly got inside and the car sped off. Driving west on the highway to Stuttgart, Paszkowski knew he was finally headed towards France. The older man handed him a very authentic-looking Swedish passport with his photo in it. He also gave him 10,000 French francs. "This is just the beginning, so you have some money on you", he explained. For the remainder of the trip, everyone was silent, each staring straight ahead.

They crossed the border in Kehl am Rhein, heading toward Strassbourg. No one stopped to check their documents. Within four hours, Paszkowski had been transformed from a prisoner in West Germany to a free man with a new identity in France. Soon it would be time to hear what the SB had in mind for him.

They stopped at a hotel for dinner and made arrangements to spend the night. The old man decided they needed some relaxation and entertainment. Through the waiter, he arranged for three prostitutes. When the girls arrived, each man took one to his room. Paszkowski wondered why `grandfather' needed a prostitute as he didn't seem as if he could still be interested in sex.

Early the next morning, the older man woke them all up, paid the prostitutes and sent them on their way. At breakfast, he explained Paszkowski's mission to him. "There are two dissidents in Paris whom we need to get back to Poland. They were in France when martial law was declared in Poland and stayed on to slander our country and work against us." He pulled out photos of a man and woman. They looked familiar to Paszkowski, but he couldn't quite place them. He thought he must have seen them in the press earlier, although he couldn't recall their names. They were most likely Solidarnosc activists.

"They have been warned to stay put and be quiet, yet the two continue to organize committees with an anti-Polish government slant. They attend lectures, organize demonstrations and fundraise for Solidarnosc." The old man was visibly upset by the work of the two dissidents. "In two weeks time, a group of American senators will visit Paris and these two are expected to meet with them to report on human rights violations in Poland. We have to prevent that meeting. These two have to disappear. Your task is to kidnap them and transport them to our Embassy in Paris. How you do it is your problem. You'll get help from our people in Paris, but you're in charge." He handed Paszkowski a train ticket to Paris scheduled to depart in two hours, $7,000 U.S., and the names and addresses of contacts in Paris.

They went to the old man's room where his younger colleague gave him a small travel bag, showing him the contents: two guns wrapped in a towel, paralysing gas, and two sets of handcuffs. It was time to leave for the train station and the old man saw him off at the Strassbourg train station. Paszkowski happily waved good-bye and began planning his next move.

He had no intention whatsoever of following the SB's instructions and got off the train before it reached its destination. He continued on into Paris by hitch-hiking and once there took his first walk along the Seine River. He dropped the bag containing the guns and everything except the cash and his Swedish passport in the river.

He felt like a free man, even though he was once again on the run. This time, he had to elude both the SB and Interpol.

Chapter 6

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