February 23, 2018 / 3:24 PM / in 4 months

Poland plans to demote members of 1981-83 military government: paper

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s right-wing government is preparing to strip the rank of members of the communist military council that enforced martial law in the 1980s, including Poland’s only astronaut, a newspaper reported on Friday.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) has made much of its efforts to erase the legacy of four decades of post-war Soviet-dominated communist rule and restore what it considers to be Poland’s true identity - even though some leading PiS figures are former communists.

The law being prepared would demote to the rank of private the members of the Military Council of National Salvation (WRON), led by the late generals Wojciech Jaruzelski and Czeslaw Kiszczak, which ran Poland from December 1981 until July 1983.

But it would also demote 77-year-old Miroslaw Hermaszewski, Poland’s only astronaut, one of the few WRON members still alive, who was drafted onto the council in 1981 without his knowledge or consent, and discharged from it after two weeks.

Hermaszewski spent almost eight days on board the Soviet Salyut space station in 1978, and is still cherished as a national hero.

“According to the bill, all members of WRON will be demoted to the rank of private,” the head of the prime minister’s office, Michal Dworczyk, was quoted as saying by the daily Super Express.

Dworczyk confirmed to the paper that this would include Hermaszewski. The astronaut told Super Express: “I will not comment on stupid ideas.”

The government press office did not immediately reply to Reuters questions.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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