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 Whistleblowers Need Protection




While fighting his unsuccessful battle with the Canadian bureaucracy to return to Canada, Paszkowski was corresponding with a family acquaintance in Poland, who asked his daughter Elzbieta, a 24-year-old hospital lab technician, to take charge of writing letters to him. After corresponding for a time, she asked him to send her an invitation to visit him in Germany, which she needed in order to obtain a passport and visa. Paszkowski obliged, enclosing some money for the train ticket. When she arrived at the Cologne train station, Paszkowski recognized her from a photograph she had sent previously. They had not actually met before.

There she was, smiling shyly, a pretty blonde with shortly-cropped hair and big blue eyes. She was standing there, her suitcase near her, nervously clenching her handbag. "Hi, how are you? Nice to see you at last," I said, kissing her cheeks, trying to help her relax seeing how tense she was. "Did you have a good trip?" I asked picking up her suitcase. She grabbed my hand and said she had something important to tell me.

"Right here? Can't it wait till we get home?" I asked, surprised and wondering what could be so important that it couldn't wait another half hour.

She burst into tears and sobbing said, "The SB sent me here to spy on you." The story that emerged looked like another of the SB's vile plans. Somehow they had discovered the correspondence between us, probably by checking the mail to my family and friends. Two agents paid her a visit one day and threatened her with losing her job and destroying her chances of ever having a career. They made her write a letter to me asking for the invitation to West Germany and money for the ticket. Scared as she was, a young inexperienced woman from a small town who hadn't yet seen much in her life, she had done as they demanded. They told her to go to West Germany once I had sent the necessary papers, and arranged it with her employer so that she could take three months off. She was to stay with me during that time and whenever she found herself alone, she was to go through my address book, letters, notes and any papers to find and write down all my contacts, names of people I met, phoned or corresponded with. She was to pay special attention to letters and contacts from Canada. After the three months were up, she was to return to Poland and bring all the information with her.

The SB agents in playing their little games were involving a young, innocent woman in dangerous liaisons. She knew she could not go ahead with the plan and spy on me, and at the first opportunity told me about the real purpose of her visit.

At home, after she had rested from the long trip and the tension caused by her mission, we talked about what to do next. She couldn't go back to Poland. She would have to face angry and vengeful SB agents if she brought nothing with her. The danger was obvious. We decided she would have to stay in West Germany and apply for refugee status while staying with me.

Elzbieta - Ela is my nickname for her - was thrust into my life by being forced to carry out the SB's dangerous schemes. She had tried to protect me, now it was my turn to take care of her.

The day after Ela's arrival in Cologne, she and Paszkowski went to the local immigration office to apply for political asylum for her. Paszkowski translated the forms for her and acted as an interpreter during a brief meeting with an official. Her application was accepted and she had to pick up her passport. Once the process for political asylum was started, all she had to do was wait.

Since she had no place to go, no money and didn't speak German it was natural that she stay with Paszkowski.

While Paszkowski was at work during the day, Ela would shop, cook and take care of the tiny apartment. Soon the place looked clean and cosy, her dinners were delicious and Paszkowski now looked forward to going home after work. He would take her on sightseeing trips happy to see how inspired she was with the things she saw and stories he had to tell her. They would walk for miles in the park holding hands and saying nothing. It felt good just being together. Before they knew it, they were falling in love.

As the weeks flew by, they lived in such happiness that they seemed like a small boat on a rough ocean. They had started to make plans to get married when Ela found she was expecting a baby. Their moments of happiness would soon be brutally shattered.

* * * * *

The telephone rang twice and Ela hesitated to answer it. She was afraid it would be the raspy voice again, telling her to go home and to do her job as she had been instructed. The first time it happened, she hung up immediately without saying anything. She knew the SB had found her and were trying to scare her into obedience.

The phone kept ringing. "It might be Ryszard," she thought and picked up the receiver.

"Hello, is that you, you cheating whore? Where is the information you were supposed to deliver?" The voice was angry and he was speaking so fast the words ran together. "Say something you bitch! You know what we do to people like you? Break their necks! You do your job or else..." Ela quickly hung up, her heart banged loudly in her ears and her eyes filled with tears. She was terrified.

That night Paszkowski bought another gun and taught Ela how to use it. "Shoot if somebody breaks into the apartment. And don't be afraid," he told her. She nodded her head feeling uneasy about holding a weapon. They couldn't count on the German police; they didn't want to get involved. Paszkowski felt it was his job to protect his future wife and their baby. He was on full alert, and knowing SB methods he knew they were not going to let her off the hook easily. However, neither one was prepared for what happened.

One early evening in September, 1989, Ela was walking home from visiting a friend a few blocks away. They had been talking about children and she was preoccupied with anticipation of the baby she felt moving in her womb. A car quietly pulled up to the curb, the door opened and she was dragged into it. The man who grabbed her choked her with one hand, and slapped her face with the other.

"I told you to get to the job you were supposed to do," he growled tightening his grip on her neck.

Ela groaned, crying softly. "Let go of me," she pleaded.

"You have one month to do what you were sent for. If you don't get back to Poland with the material, we'll find you and your lover and kill you both." He punched her a few more times, opened the door and threw her onto the pavement. The car pulled away, its tires squealing.

Ela dragged herself up and stumbled home, crying fearfully for the baby inside her.

When Paszkowski arrived home, he found her lying in bed, bruised and exhausted, with blackened eyes. Sobbing uncontrollably, she told him what had happened. In a rage, Paszkowski got into his car and searched the neighbourhood hoping to find the car carrying the SB agents. His stomach clenched in anguish at the vision of Ela's bruised face and the sound of her crying in pain. It tortured him deeply to think he'd completely failed to protect her.

Unable to locate the vehicle, Paszkowski returned home and called the police. Two officers arrived, took down a report and left. The couple never heard from them again. Paszkowski called to follow up, wanting to know if the police were going to do something to protect them, especially Ela and the baby, from the SB, only to hear there was nothing they could do.

Unable to obtain protection from German authorities, Paszkowski decided they must leave Germany quickly. Too much was at stake. He sold everything he owned and drove Ela to Holland, crossing the border illegally. Once in Amsterdam, he left her with some acquaintances and through contacts bought two false passports. With the passports in hand, he bought two airline tickets to Canada. He felt the Canadians owed him something for his services, so that would be their destination.

"I don't want anything from them except a secure place for my family," he thought. Ela was completely unaware of his experiences in Canada.

On the 4th of October, 1989, the couple boarded a Canadian International Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Edmonton. At the passport control area, Paszkowski showed his West German passport without incident. Ela produced a British passport, which might have proven awkward since she couldn't then speak a word of English. A nervous smile was frozen on her face as she passed through the passport control area, praying no one would speak to her.

During the flight, Paszkowski destroyed their passports and plane tickets, flushing them down the airplane toilet so that they couldn't be returned to Amsterdam. When he returned to his seat, Ela looked at him with her big blue eyes, unable to sleep despite her fatigue. She was scared. He was determined to stay in the country that didn't want him.


Chapter 12

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