First post WWII democratically elected Prime Minister of Poland, Jan Olszewski, died on February 7, 2019. As Prime Minister, Olszewski was a staunch anti-communist, arguing that in the year 1992, Poland continued to remain a communist country. Claiming that communist agents remained in all corridors of economic and political power, Olszewski argued for increased democratization and de-communinization at all levels of Polish society. Olszewski’s premiership, which lasted only five months, from Dec 1991 to early June 1992, was the second shortest in the history of the post 1989 Poland, known as Third Republic. Premier Olszewski’s dismissal took place in the early hours after midnight on 5 June, in an event known as the nocna zmiana (“the nightshift”), when the Sejm convened for a vote of no confidence. Many historians and political analysts believe that the issue of lustration was behind the downfall of Prime Minister Olszwski’s government.
On May 28, 1992, Sejm member Janusz Korwin-Mikke of a small conservative libertarian Real Politics Union successfully pressed for and passed a motion requiring the Ministry of Interior to identify all of the republic’s leading politicians who collaborated with communist secret security services. Responding to the lustration resolution six days later, on June 4, Interior Minister Antoni Macierewicz released to all parliamentary faction heads a secret list of 64 name of communist-era collaborators, drawn from his ministry’s archives, and still in public positions. Known as the Macierewicz List, this information was quickly leaked to the public, the roster included many prominent politicians in the government. A second list published shortly afterward included President Walesa himself. In response, Walesa immediately demanded the Olszewski’s government’s dismissal.
Late night on June 4, 1992, on the eve of the vote of no confidence, Premier Olszewski made an unexpected televised address, defending his administration’s lustration and appealing for the public to rally behind his government. He said:
My government was the first to want to reveal old, secret relationships of individuals who recently volunteered to enter into the state’s new administration. I believe that the Polish people should know those who govern them, including those who helped the UB and SB to keep Poles enslaved. I believe the collaborators of the former communist political police constitute a threat to the security of the free Polish people. The people should know that, not coincidentally, just at the moment when we can finally break away from communist ties, there is a sudden motion for the government’s dismissal.
In the early hours after midnight on June 5, 1992, in an event known as the nocna zmiana (“the nightshift”), the Sejm voted to dismiss the Olszewski’s government. Despite Olszewski’s public appeals both on television and within the debating chamber, parliament’s majority supported his ouster.