President Komorowski and First Lady Anna light candle in memory of martial law victims: photo – PAP/Jacek Turczyk
Events marking the 31st anniversary of the introduction of the, at times, brutal crackdown against the Solidarity trade union, are being held all over Poland, including wreath-laying ceremonies and special religious services.
The number of people who lost their lives during martial law, at the hands of secret police, in street demonstrations and in the wake of persecution, is thought to exceed one hundred, though the exact number is not known.
President Bronislaw Komorowski, a former Solidarity activist, said Wednesday night after he lit the candle in the window of the Bellweder Palace where he resides, that 13 December 1981 was a horrible moment in the Polish nation’s history but stressed that looking back into the past from today’s perspective it can clearly be seen how much has been done to make Poland a free, democratic and independent country.
"It was a nasty night, a nasty moment in the history of our nation and our state," Komorowski said. He noted, however, that "the more we look back, the more we can see how Poland has changed, how much we have done do make Poland free, democratic, independent".
On Thursday, Komorowski is visiting the Białołęka detention centre in a Warsaw suburb, one of 49 places of internment 31 years ago and where he himself was imprisoned, together with other Solidarity activists.
Martial law was imposed by General Jaruzelski, the communist party leader and prime minister, at midnight on 13 December 1981.
Eighty thousand soldiers, 30 thousand policemen, 1,750 tanks and 1,900 armoured vehicles were used in the operation whose aim was to crush the Solidarity movement.
The move came 16 months after Solidarity’s self limiting revolution began, at a time the movement embraced almost ten million people.
General Jaruzelski’s later claims about an imminent Soviet intervention are seen by most Polish historians as an effort to avoid responsibility for his decision.
According to documents, there was indeed a threat of a Soviet military intervention a year earlier, in December 1980, and later in March 1981 but there was no direct threat of any intervention in December 1981.
The martial law period divides Poles even today, with 43 percent telling the OBOP opinion pollsters that the introduction of martial law was justified to fend off possible Soviet invasion.
Thirty five percent of the respondents hold a different view, with one in every five Poles claiming that General Jaruzelski introduced martial law to allow the communists to hold on to power.
Twenty two percent of Poles have no opinion on the events of December 1981 and only forty four percent of Poles remember the exact date of the imposition of martial law. Twenty eight percent of the respondents do not know the date. (mk/pg)
Opposition calls for 'apolitical' police at Martial Law anniversary march, thenews.pl, Nov 12