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The most important years of my life

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Imprisonment once again
Jacek Kuroń Social activist
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I tried to escape with the American TV crew who took me in their car back to their hotel, the Novotel. But soon after that, it turned out that the Novotel was surrounded and within a short time, two gentlemen came looking for me, in fact there were more than two, but of these two, one was from Gdańsk and the other one was my colonel, Lesiak, later he was a colonel, at that point he was still a captain, and then later still he became Major Lesiak, and he was constantly detaining me. Later, we were driving alone in a police van, going through the snow-covered streets of Gdańsk full of armoured vehicles, tanks, and the man from Gdańsk says to me, 'Well, Mr Kuroń, was it worth doing all those things that you did?' To which I replied, 'Do you remember how two years ago when you would come to get me, you would come in three maybe four cars, but today, look how many tanks you had to use to get me'. Lesiak leaned over to me and said, 'This time, it's very serious.' They set me down and his face was pale and frightened, tense not frightened, tense. They set me down outside some building and they led me downstairs, taking nothing from me, just going lower and lower and lower to some cellar. I entered this huge, enormous cellar the opposite wall of which was riddled with bullet holes, and there were lads wearing army fatigues standing against the wall holding machine guns, and they said, 'Up against the wall.' I quickly walked up to the opposite wall so that I could turn around and face death without really knowing why, as if facing it would be more comfortable because I wasn't going to start shouting. I wouldn't have yelled anything out. After a while, I saw they were just standing there and weren't shooting so I took a packet of cigarettes out of my bag, and then one said to the other, 'I could do with a smoke.' So I took out another packet and threw it to him saying, 'Here, take it.' He caught it, and I thought to myself, well there's not going to be any shooting because I thought if he takes the cigarettes, he won't shoot. I put my bag down, put it under my head and fell asleep. So prison started all over again, another three years, more than three years. But it was completely different from all the prison terms because soon after that, Gajka died. That just ended my life. Later I was released, I tried to do all kinds of things, I even tried to be very active, but none of it was as it had been, so I can't even talk about it.

Ja próbowałem uciekać z telewizją amerykańską, tak że oni mnie wzięli do samochodu i zawieźli do swego hotelu do Novotelu. Ale wkrótce po przyjściu do Novotelu okazało się, że Novotel jest obstawiony i zaraz potem wkroczyło po mnie dwóch panów... jeden... znaczy więcej ale... dwóch panów, jeden był z Gdańska, drugi był mój pułkownik Lesiak, późniejszy pułkownik Leśniak wtedy był kapitan, potem major Lesiak taki, który mnie stale zatrzymywał. Jechaliśmy później samochodem, suką milicyjną przez takie ośnieżone ulice Gdańska, na których stały wozy pancerne, czołgi i ten z Gdańska mówi do mnie: "No, Panie Kuroń, warto było to robić, co Pan robi?" A ja mówię: "Proszę Pana, czy Pan pamięta jak Pan przyjeżdżał po mnie dwa lata temu, w trzy czy cztery fiaty Pan przyjechał, a dziś patrz Pan, w ile czołgów Pan musi po mnie przyjechać". Leśniak nachylił się do mnie i mówi: "Tym razem jest bardzo poważnie".

Wysadzili mnie i miał taką wrogą, przestraszoną twarz, napiętą nie przestraszoną, napiętą. Wysadzili mnie przed jakimś budynkiem, zaprowadzili po schodach na dół, nic mi nie zabrali... i tak na dół, na dół, na dół do piwnicy... wchodzę do takiej dużej, olbrzymiej sali piwnicznej, której tamte ściany przeciwległe od drzwi są postrzelane, pod tymi ścianami stoją chłopcy w takich wojskowych kombinezonach z pistoletami maszynowymi, mówią: "Pod ścianę". Ja tak niesłychanie prędko poszedłem pod tamtą ścianę, po to, żeby się odwrócić, żeby tą śmierć przyjąć na twarz, nie wiadomo po co, jakby na twarz było wygodniej, bo krzyczeć bym przecież nic nie krzyczał. Okrzyków żadnych przecież bym nie wznosił. I po chwili zobaczyłem, że oni sterczą, nie strzelają, więc wyjmuję paczkę papierosów z torby, a jeden mówi do drugiego: "Zapaliłbym", więc ja wyjmuję drugą i rzucam: "Masz" i on łapie. I ja sobie – no nie będzie strzelania, znowu też taki pomysł, że jak wziął papierosy, to nie strzeli. Położyłem sobie torbę, położyłem pod głowę i zasnąłem. I zaczęło się znowu więzienie, znowu trzy lata, ponad trzy lata. Ale było to już zupełnie inne więzienie niż wszystkie, bo wkrótce potem umarła Gajka. I jakby to skończyło moje życie. Później już byłem wypuszczany, wypuszczono mnie, próbowałem robić różne rzeczy, nawet aktywnie bardzo robić, ale to wszystko już nie to i nie tamto i dlatego o tym nawet opowiadać nie umiem.

The late Polish activist, Jacek Kuroń (1934-2004), had an influential but turbulent political career, helping transform the political landscape of Poland. He was expelled from the communist party, arrested and incarcerated. He was also instrumental in setting up the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR) and later became a Minister of Labour and Social Policy.

Listeners: Jacek Petrycki Marcel Łoziński

Cinematographer Jacek Petrycki was born in Poznań, Poland in 1948. He has worked extensively in Poland and throughout the world. His credits include, for Agniezka Holland, Provincial Actors (1979), Europe, Europe (1990), Shot in the Heart (2001) and Julie Walking Home (2002), for Krysztof Kieslowski numerous short films including Camera Buff (1980) and No End (1985). Other credits include Journey to the Sun (1998), directed by Jesim Ustaoglu, which won the Golden Camera 300 award at the International Film Camera Festival, Shooters (2000) and The Valley (1999), both directed by Dan Reed, Unforgiving (1993) and Betrayed (1995) by Clive Gordon both of which won the BAFTA for best factual photography. Jacek Petrycki is also a teacher and a filmmaker.

Film director Marcel Łoziński was born in Paris in 1940. He graduated from the Film Directing Department of the National School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź in 1971. In 1994, he was nominated for an American Academy Award and a European Film Academy Award for the documentary, 89 mm from Europe. Since 1995, he has been a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science awarding Oscars. He lectured at the FEMIS film school and the School of Polish Culture of Warsaw University. He ran documentary film workshops in Marseilles. Marcel Łoziński currently lectures at Andrzej Wajda’s Master School for Film Directors. He also runs the Dragon Forum, a European documentary film workshop.

Tags: Novotel, Gdańsk, Gajka Kuroń, Jan Lesiak

Duration: 2 minutes, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: 1987

Date story went live: 12 June 2008