AP

Jerzy Urban, spokesman for Polish communist govt, dies at 89

Oct 3, 2022, 3:49 AM | Updated: 7:02 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Jerzy Urban, a spokesman for Poland’s communist-era government in the 1980s who masterminded state propaganda and censorship for the regime in the final years before its collapse, has died. He was 89.

His death was announced on Monday by satirical weekly magazine “NIE” (Polish for “No”), which Urban founded and led in the post-1989 era.

Urban earned a reputation for sarcasm in the early 1980s when he served as the spokesman for the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. He served in that role from 1981, the year of a harsh communist crackdown, to 1989, when communist regimes across central and eastern Europe began collapsing.

Urban launched weekly government news conferences that were broadcast by Polish television and attended by Polish and foreign journalists, making him one of the most prominent and despised faces of the regime.

To many Poles he seemed to personify the government’s brutality after dozens were killed in the 1981 martial law crackdown, as well as its cynicism and contempt for the Solidarity movement, led by Lech Walesa, and the millions yearning for freedom.

In 1986, a time of shortages in the communist economy, Urban announced that Poland was collecting blankets and sleeping bags for the homeless of New York City.

Poland’s offer to New York followed the U.S. government offering to send powdered milk to Poland to replace fresh milk tainted by radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union. The U.S. Senate stipulated that nongovernmental agencies in Poland distribute the powdered milk to make sure it got to the people.

Insulted by the stipulation, the Polish government responded with its offer of sleeping bags and blankets for the New York’s homeless on the condition that the goods be distributed by private groups. Then-New York Mayor Edward I. Koch rejected the offer, calling it foolish.

Jerzy Urban was born in the central Polish city of Lodz on Aug. 3, 1933, the year that Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, to a Jewish family so well assimilated that he didn’t learn of his Jewish roots until after World War II had started. Urban survived the Holocaust hiding in the countryside.

He made his debut as a journalist in the 1950s, and had a reputation for being so provocative he often had to write under a pseudonym.

In an 2020 interview with the Polish edition of Newsweek, he described his early commitment to socialism.

“I was a zealous Stalinist, which of course did not mean that I approved of the crimes,” he said.

In the first semi-free elections in 1989, Urban’s reputation was such that he failed to win a seat in parliament — even as some other former communist functionaries entered post-1989 political life.

Instead he made a new role for himself as the publisher of the anti-clerical “NIE” and became a successful and wealthy businessman. He also continued as a provocateur, facing legal suits for publishing pornographic photos and insulting religious feelings in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

In 2005, Urban was convicted for insulting Polish-born Pope John Paul II — since made a saint by the Vatican — for a 2002 article in which he mocked the pontiff for continuing to appear in public despite his ailing health.

Urban is survived by a daughter, two grandchildren and his third wife, Malgorzata Daniszewska, according to Polish media reports.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

14 hours ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

2 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

9 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

10 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

12 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

Jerzy Urban, spokesman for Polish communist govt, dies at 89