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Poland marks 39th anniversary of imposition of martial law
Polish Radio 13.12.2020 07:30
Sunday marks 39 years since martial law was imposed by the communist regime that was in power in Poland at the time. On December 13, 1981, communist-era strongman General Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law to stifle rising opposition, headed by the Solidarity movement.
It was on that day that Poles woke up to disconnected telephones, army vehicles on the streets and an announcement by Gen. Jaruzelski, broadcast on national television, in which he spoke of Poland on the edge of a precipice. More than 6,500 opposition activists, including former Polish President Lech Wałęsa, had already been arrested and taken to detention centres all over the country by the time the announcement was aired.
It was the start of a dark chapter in modern Polish history that saw thousands of opposition activists jailed and dozens killed. According to a parliamentary report compiled at the start of the 1990s, more than 90 people were killed during martial law, which lasted formally until July 22, 1983. During martial law Poland’s communist regime suspended political and workers’ organisations and introduced a curfew.
Historian Tadeusz Ruzikowski from the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) told Polish Radio that the 1981 martial law was "a brutal crackdown" on trade unions, which were considered a grave threat by the communist regime. To mark the anniversary and honour the victims, IPN has called on Poles to place a candle in their window as part of its annual campaign "Victims of Martial Law. Light the Candle of Freedom."
Poland remembers martial law victims
Polish Radio 13.12.2020 16:35
Polish officials, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda, have paid tribute to the vicitms of martial law, imposed 39 years ago by the communist regime.
Jan Józef Kasprzyk, head of Poland’s Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression, laying a wreath at the tomb of priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, a victim of the communist regime, in Warsaw on Sunday, December 13.Photo: PAP/Mateusz Marek see source
During a Sunday ceremony, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the Museum of Cursed Soldiers and Political Prisoners of the Polish People's Republic in Warsaw, honouring those who fought against the communist regime in the years 1980-1989. In a letter read out during the ceremony, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda thanked for "the memory of the courage and sacrifice of all generations of compatriots who fought for a free homeland.” Andrzej Duda wrote that the plaque unveiled "on the 39th anniversary of the imposition of martial law reminds us of our [Polish ed.] nation's unwavering pursuit of freedom throughout the 20th century."
Speaking at the event, Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Gliński said that "we cannot allow to be persuaded that martyrdom is something wrong" as it is an element of Polish history and identity. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on his Facebook page that the 1981-1983 martial law period was a time when "a wave of human solidarity was crashed."
During special memorial events on Sunday, Jan Józef Kasprzyk, head of Poland’s Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression, and Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński laid wreaths on the grave of Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Roman Catholic priest who died at the hands of communist secret police in the 1980s and is widely venerated as a martyr.
Sunday marks 39 years since martial law was imposed by the communist regime that was in power in Poland at the time.