On this day 40 years ago, on December 13, 1981, the communist dictator Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed the “Stan Wojenny” (State of War) in Poland.
The violent communist response to protests calling for democracy
The declaration of the state of war allowed the communist dictatorship to impose Martial Law on all the Polish people. It was an attempt to quell the increasingly numerous demonstrations calling for democracy for the country, in which workers in the mines and shipyards had a special role, grouped in the Catholic union Solidarność, which was outlawed. During the validity of Martial Law, until July 22, 1983, the entire country was militarized. In the wave of communist repression, 56 people were killed and more than 10,000 were sent to prisons and detention centers.
The support of Saint John Paul II, the Church and Reagan to the Polish people
But the Polish people were not alone. Polish Pope Saint John Paul II continued to encourage his compatriots, both with prayer and with public statements and even sending a representative to Warsaw. The then US President, Ronald Reagan, also showed his support for the Polish democrats, who also had demonstrations of support in several free countries. The role of the Catholic Church was fundamental in keeping the light of Freedom burning in Poland. In fact, many of the demonstrations were made displaying religious symbols, including images of the Virgin of Częstochowa. The priest Jerzy Popiełuszko played a leading role in this movement for Freedom: in revenge, the Communists assassinated him in 1984.
Poland was the spark that ended up burning communism in Europe
In the end, the Polish people won the pulse of the dictatorship, and the protests in Poland were the spark that ended up burning communism in Europe. Poland was the first country where that regime fell, with the convening of elections on June 4, 1989. In the following two years, communism fell in Hungary (October 23, 1989), East Germany (November 9, 1989), Romania (December 22, 1989), Czechoslovakia (December 29, 1989), Bulgaria (June 10, 1990), Latvia (May 4, 1990), Albania (December 11, 1990), Estonia (December 20, 1990) August 1991), Lithuania (September 6, 1991), and finally the disappearance of the USSR (December 26, 1991).
An excellent video on the anti-communist resistance against Martial Law
The Polish National Institute of Remembrance has published an excellent video on the Polish resistance to communism during Martial Law, which reviews what those events were like in 4 minutes. The video is in English:
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