What could be described as a minuscule break in the bad relations between Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan and AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland occurred last night in the lobby of the labor union building. Donovan came to a reception Kirkland gave for an exhibition of Polish art.
But the two men still didn't speak.
Donovan was the first official guest to arrive, before Kirkland came downstairs, before Vice President George Bush came, before Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Attorney General William French Smith and former secretary of state Alexander Haig. "No one was here to greet him," said Murray Seeger, the union's spokesman.
But even after Kirkland arrived at the reception, he and Donovan didn't speak. Donovan did speak to the wife of the union president, Irena Kirkland.
Asked about the Donovan visit, Kirkland said, "This is an open house. We have asked for a donation and anyone willing to pay is welcome." He said he didn't remember when he and Donovan last had a meeting or a conversation.
According to Seeger, "Tonight was the first time he Donovan has been in the building since early 1981. We had had no official contact with him since February 1981. His office said now since the problems with the Justice Department are cleared up, he would be getting out more."
After that cool opening, the evening was festive in its celebration of the photographs by Michael Judge and posters by Jan Sawka but somber about the meaning of Sunday's announcement that the suspension of martial law in Poland would begin this month.
"I'd like to see more details," said James L. Buckley, president of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty. "We still want recognition of labor unions and Solidarity's right to exist."
"Still so much remains to be done," said Kennedy. "We continue to be stirred by the fact that the demands of Lech Walesa are not responded to, commitments are not made."
"Any assessment has to flow from deeds," said Charles Z. Wick, director of the United States Information Agency.
And this from Kirkland: "Even if martial law is lifted, the regime has moved to permanently institutionalize its most repressive features. We will not retreat from our demand that Solidarn osc be fully restored to the workers of Poland and that sanctions against Poland and the Soviet Union be maintained until then."
Strong skepticism came from the two artists. Sawka, who said he was "politely asked to leave" Poland in 1976, said, "Even they the Polish military leaders don't believe. It the announcement was a desperate try to lure Western Europe to give money." Sawka, who now lives in New York, was made an honorary member of the Graphic Arts International Union by its president, Kenneth J. Brown. "Years ago when I was a student we needed to print some clandestine poetry. The printers gave us ink, paper, they risked everything," said Sawka, describing why the honor was special.
Judge, a native of Anacostia, spent two years in Poland, capturing many solitary scenes and strong faces at a time of political unrest. "I knew the announcement would happen," he said. "The Poles do everything by anniversary. But nothing will change. The union has been disbanded and that was the country's dignity."
Both Kennedy and Bush purchased color photographs by Judge for $250 each. "Bush said that I really speak with my photography," said Judge, who is donating the proceeds to the AFL-CIO Polish Workers Aid Fund. The evening ended with a candlelight vigil in Lafayette Park.