Twenty years have not been enough time to dull John Tagliabue’s vivid memories of communism’s death in Eastern Europe.
At IWP on November 12, 2009, the veteran New York Times correspondent delivered a penetrating and at times emotional account of his personal experiences reporting from Warsaw, Gdansk, Prague, and elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc during the turbulent years of 1987-1989. Filled with personal anecdotes ranging from the humorous to the poignant (as when Mr. Tagliabue related how his wife, herself a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, was beaten severely while covering a protest in Prague), his remarks riveted an assembly of IWP students, interns, and friends.
Mr. Tagliabue expressed much of his narrative of communism’s downfall by delivering compelling verbal portraits of many of the remarkable resistance leaders he met in the course of his reporting. He also placed his eyewitness account inside the context of the larger strategic shift then underway, discussing the pivotal role played by three great leaders: Ronald Reagan (of whom Mr. Tagliabue remarked, “He was the first American leader who thought outside the box of the Cold War), Mikhail Gorbachev, and Pope John Paul II. He stressed the cultural and religious nature of Polish Solidarity and other resistance movements: “To be Catholic in Poland was a political statement,” he said.
After his remarks, Mr. Tagliabue answered questions and participated in a spirited discussion of many aspects of the end of European Communism, including economics, religion, and the effects on Europeans of the Soviet Union’s failure to subjugate Afghanistan. IWP President Dr. John Lenczowski and Ambassador Thomas Melady presented Mr. Tagliabue with a certificate recognizing his many years of international reporting and his coverage from Eastern Europe twenty years ago.