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53rd anniversary of December ’70. During the celebrations in Tricity, a letter from President Andrzej Duda was read

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Sunday marks the 53rd anniversary of the Gdynia massacre. On December 17, 1970, in the morning, near the Gdynia Shipyard railway stop, the army and militia opened fire on shipyard workers who were walking to their workplace and heeded the appeal of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Polish People’s Republic, Stanisław Kociołek. 16 people were shot.

Ceremonies commemorating the 53rd anniversary of December ’70 took place on Saturday in front of the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers in Gdańsk. “The road to a free Poland is marked by crosses commemorating the sacrifice of those who bravely stood up for the rights and dignity of the nation,” the president wrote in a letter to the participants. Andrzej Duda. Saturday’s ceremony was organized by the Management Board of the Gdańsk Region of NSZZ “Solidarność”.

Before laying flowers and lighting candles, the national anthem was sung, the appeal of the fallen was read and a prayer was said for the victims of the workers’ protests on the Coast in December 1970.

President’s letter. “Freedom is measured by crosses”

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Social advisor to the President of the Republic of Poland, Piotr Karczewski, read a letter in which President Andrzej Duda wrote that “freedom is measured by crosses.”

“The road to a free Poland is marked by crosses commemorating the sacrifice of those who bravely demanded the rights and dignity of the nation and fought in various ways for a just and solidary homeland. These are also crosses on the graves of participants of the events of December 1970, murdered by officers of the communist regime, as well as crosses-monuments erected in their honor in Gdańsk, Szczecin, Elbląg and other Polish cities. Especially nowadays, there are more flowers and candles under them – signs of memory of compatriots whose cries for bread and freedom were answered with bullets, batons and repressions.

“I join the participants of today’s celebrations, paying tribute to the heroes of December ’70. Thank you for the courage, integrity, determination and sacrifice thanks to which our nation finally won, overthrew the red dictatorship and rebuilt a free Poland. I deeply believe that the memory of those tragic events will be remain as a warning and an ever-present commitment to strengthen our sovereign state, based on the principle of solidarity, and to ensure the successful and equitable development of the Republic of Poland,” President Andrzej Duda said in his letter.

After laying wreaths, the participants of the ceremony walked through the streets of Gdańsk to the Holy Mass. to the Basilica of St. Bridget in Gdańsk.

Gdynia, December events 1970Edmund Pepliński/PAP

On December 14-22, 1970 – mainly in Gdańsk, Gdynia, Elbląg and Szczecin – the army and militia brutally suppressed workers’ protests. The causes of the strikes were the totalitarian rule of the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Władysław Gomułka, and the terrible economic situation of the country. Workers were forced to take to the streets just before Christmas by drastic increases in the prices of many goods, especially food. The first strike was announced on December 14 by employees of the largest industrial plant on the Coast – the Gdańsk Shipyard. Lenin, demanding decent living conditions, withdrawal of pay raises and higher wages. Other companies from Gdynia, Elbląg and Szczecin followed their example.

The communist authorities once again responded with force. Soldiers and policemen were ordered to shoot at the workers.

Kat Tricity

– Once again, shipyard workers, I repeat my appeal to you: start working normally. There are all the conditions for this, the then deputy prime minister said on local television and radio, less than 10 hours before the bloody events, on the evening of December 16.

Stanisław Kociołek, who urged the strikers to work in a televised speech, knew that the shipyard was to be blocked by the army the very next morning. After the December events, he lost his place in the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, but “as punishment” he became a long-time ambassador of the Polish People’s Republic, among others. in Moscow, Tunisia and Luxembourg.

In the years 1980-1982 he was the first secretary of the Provincial Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Warsaw. He was never held criminally responsible for his actions. He was punished only morally – he was mentioned by name as the “executioner of Tricity”, among others. in “Ballad o Janek Wiśniewski” by Krzysztof Dowgiałło (music by Mieczysław Cholewa) and in the novel “Turbot” by Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass.

December ’70 – workers’ blood was shedOn December 14, 1970, a strike broke out in the Gdańsk Shipyard, triggered by the increases in basic necessities, especially food, announced two days earlier. On December 17, the people’s army without warning opened fire on workers going to work. (TVN24)TVN24 archive, “Ballad about Janek Wiśniewski” – sings Mieczysław Cholewa

Victims of the Gdynia massacre

The tragic symbol of December ’70 was a photo of a procession carrying the body of a shot young man and a bloody red and white flag on the door. The murdered person was eighteen-year-old Zbigniew Godlewski, an employee of the Gdynia Shipyard. Paris Commune. Godlewski is considered the prototype of the hero of the song “Janek Wiśniewski fell”, although more similar tragedies happened at that time.

READ MORE: “The blood of the murdered became a seed that bore an abundant harvest”

Zbigniew Godlewski, like other victims of the Gdynia massacre, was buried secretly, under cover of darkness, at the cemetery in Gdańsk-Oliwa. A year later, the family managed to exhume and transfer the remains to their hometown of Elbląg. Currently, one of the streets in this city is named after a killed young shipyard worker. Godlewskiego Street is also in Zielona Góra, where he was born. Gdynia, in turn, honored not a man, but a legend. Janek Wiśniewski became the patron of the street where shipyard workers were murdered on their way to work on December 17, 1970.

The body of Zbyszek Godlewski (known as Janek Wiśniewski) carried by demonstratorspublic domain

Wiesław Kasprzycki, a seventeen-year-old student from a vocational school, was brutally “beaten by unidentified MO officers. He suffered spine and kidney injuries, a head injury with concussion, which resulted in a serious, incurable disease.”

On December 17, Kasprzycki was walking along CzolgIST Avenue to his mother who worked as a nurse in a hospital. He was stopped by a police patrol. – I found myself on the floor. Three of them caught up with me and started kicking me. I didn’t lose consciousness then, it was just a greeting, he recalled. – They started cutting us with these hunting knives. I didn’t have long hair, so I suffered more. At the same time, they brought a wooden armchair – Kasprzycki said years later. – They chose some of them, ordered them to lie over this chair and beat them (…) blindly, with a cast wherever they could. We retreated against one wall, against the other. After the blows, the skin began to crack and bleed, and there was a mess of blood and hair on the floor – he described.

Kasprzycki’s account – evoking images of the atrocities and crimes of the Gestapo, the NKVD and the Stalinist secret service – was recorded by Prof. Jerzy Eisler in the publication “December 1970”.

“Kasprzycki was still beaten with batons of various lengths by officers placed in a row. Finally, he landed among the corpses lying downstairs in the Presidium building. There, he was found naked among the corpses by Commander Dr. Kunert, who noticed that he was still warm, called an ambulance and he was in a state of death. Kasprzycki was taken to the City Hospital.

After long-term treatment, Kasprzycki, who suffered from post-traumatic epilepsy, became a young pensioner, “an eighteen-year-old war invalid in times of peace” – summed up Prof. Jerry Eisler. Wiesław Kasprzycki died on April 23, 2019, at the age of 65. His character was recalled by Antoni Krauze in the 2010 feature film “Black Thursday”.

A still from the movie “Black Thursday”Cinema World

The door on which the murdered Zbigniew Godlewski was carried was found in 1981 in the men’s room of the Gdańsk management of the Polish State Railways by the then reporter of “Tygodnik Solidarność”, Małgorzata Niezabitowska.

– I was sure they were missing – she said in 2010 on TVN24. – They were exactly like in the times of the Polish People’s Republic: unpainted, dirty, with peeling paint – described Niezabitowska. The participants of the memorable procession told her how it happened. – How they carried them, how the door got to the presidium, where one of the employees lived. The next day he saw this door because it had been abandoned at some point during the fights with the militia. They brought it the next day and said: well, we had to bring it, because we couldn’t use the toilet at that time – said Niezabitowska, recalling the circumstances in which she collected information for a reportage about the door – one of the symbols of the massacre on the Coast.

Currently, the historic doors are in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Gdynia, founded by Fr. Hilary Jastak Chapel of Shipyard Workers, Port Workers and People of the Sea. A bloody Polish flag carried in the procession is also kept there.

Niezabitowska recalls the legendary door

Niezabitowska recalls the legendary door19/12 | The door on which the murdered Zbyszek Godlewski was carried was found in the toilet of the regional management of the Polish State Railways in Gdynia – recalled Małgorzata Niezabitowska, a former journalist of “Tygodnik Solidarność”, on TVN24. (TVN24)TVN24

Father Jastak: it was revenge

“On December 17, on ‘Black Thursday’, the prelate celebrated the first Holy Mass in Poland for those murdered on the streets of Gdynia. He immediately organized comprehensive help for the injured and those in need, especially the victims’ families. After the December tragedy, Father Hilary Jastak collected information about those killed and repressed. , wanting to create a true picture of the events, prepared memorials,” it was recalled on the “Gdyński Pantheon” website. “On January 17, 1971, Father Hilary Jastak sent a letter to Primate Stefan Wyszyński, in which he described the course of events,” it was added.

“Why was a trap set up in the Gdynia Shipyard on Thursday, December 17, 1970, into which people were herded and machine gun fire was opened at them? The answer is inhumanly simple: precisely to shoot at them. Three days earlier, people who had been humiliated for years they rebelled when a drastic increase in food prices was introduced just before Christmas. They took to the streets, first in Gdańsk, and the next day in Gdynia. The Gdynia massacre was a revenge: it was supposed to teach workers common sense, show that ‘whoever raises a hand against the people’s power, “the authorities will cut off this hand,” as Józef Cyrankiewicz put it in 1956, wrote Paweł Kukla on the Gdynia.pl website on December 15, 2020.

Main photo source: Edmund Pepliński/PAP

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