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Gomułka out, Gierek in


Will you help us? We will!
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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After December there was a change in the governing faction. The change came at the last minute because otherwise, the whole country would have been in uproar. People welcomed the new faction with a degree of hope. Gierek called out from the shipyard, ‘Will you help us?’ And they answered, ‘We will!’ People were hopeful and this lasted for quite a while because they could see the standard of living was improving. It wasn't until later that we realised that we were living off credit which began to flow into Poland but which was wasted. Instead of rebuilding the economy, it was spent on whimsical investment ideas, and I have to say that the economists realised quite quickly what was going on. In my case, thanks to my friendship with Professor Lipiński, I was able to learn quite early on that our race to catch up with Western countries, that the idea of this prosperity lasting a long time, that we're building this and that, the Katowice Steelworks, that this was all humbug which was going to end badly. The people, however, took a while to realise this, several years had to go by before it began... before we began to see that this was all collapsing, that this wasn't as it had been one, two, three years ago, that, in short, a huge economic opportunity had been wasted, and in 1976 anyone who had any insight could see that we were coming close to something new, some new upheaval.

Po grudniu przyszła zmiana ekipy rządzącej. Przyszła w ostatniej chwili, bo inaczej cały kraj by się ruszył. I nową ekipę ludzie powitali z pewnymi nadziejami. Gierek krzyknął w stoczni: „Pomożecie?” odpowiedziano mu: „Pomożemy!”. I ludzie mieli nadzieję. I przez pewien czas dosyć długi ona trwała, a to dlatego, że widać było, że stopa życiowa się podwyższa, potem przekonaliśmy się, że żyjemy na koszt kredytów, które zaczęły spływać do Polski i że te kredyty utopiono, poszły w błoto – zamiast przebudować gospodarkę, wydawano je na bardzo chimeryczne jakieś pomysły inwestycyjne i trzeba powiedzieć, że ekonomiści dosyć szybko zorientowali się w tym co się dzieje. No ja akurat dzięki przyjaźni z profesorem Lipińskim miałem okazję bardzo wcześnie wiedzieć, że to nasze doganianie krajów zachodnich, to, że ta prosperity będzie długo trwała, że budujemy to, tamto, Hutę Katowice, że to jest wielki humbug, który źle się skończy. Ale ludzie dosyć późno się w tym zorientowali, musiało minąć parę lat, gdy zaczęło... zaczęliśmy widzieć, że to się załamuje, że to już nie jest tak jak rok, dwa, trzy lata temu, że, krótko mówiąc, zmarnowano wielką okazję ekonomiczną i w ’76 roku właściwie już ludzie bystrzy wiedzieli, że zbliżamy się do czegoś nowego, do jakiegoś nowego wybuchu.

Jan Józef Lipski (1926-1991) was one of Poland's best known political activists. He was also a writer and a literary critic. As a soldier in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), he fought in the Warsaw Uprising. In 1976, following worker protests, he co-founded the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR). His active opposition to Poland's communist authorities led to his arrest and imprisonment on several occasions. In 1987, he re-established and headed the Polish Socialist Party. Two years later, he was elected to the Polish Senate. He died in 1991 while still in office. For his significant work, Lipski was honoured with the Cross of the Valorous (Krzyż Walecznych), posthumously with the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1991) and with the highest Polish decoration, the Order of the White Eagle (2006).

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: Katowice Steelworks, Edward Gierek, Edward Lipiński

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 11 March 2011