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Help for the workers

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Police reaction to the first strikes in Radom and Ursus
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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How did these events appear? When the workers heard about the price rises, many factories throughout the country went on strike. But in Radom, the employees of the General Walter Metal Works decided to simply take to the streets, calling out other workers from other factories to join the demonstrations. The workers at Ursus did something similar. Ursus is really a suburb of Warsaw – even in terms of administration it is still part of the city. The authorities responded immediately by sending in units of militia, something that they had been preparing for a long time, motorised militia units which were deployed following special training in dispersing street demonstrations. It was done very brutally, I mean, they used huge riot batons not the ordinary truncheons that the police normally carry. They didn't care if they caused fractures or concussion or other serious injuries, which meant a large number of people were hurt or injured as a result. Anyone who was caught was forced to pass through what they jokingly referred to as the ‘constitutional walk’. The militia came up with this name themselves as a joke. It involved a person passing between two ranks of policemen, one on either side – if the person resisted, he was dragged along – while the policemen beat each victim as they passed down the length of the ranks. Depending on how long these ranks were, what state of mind the police were in, how euphoric they were, the victims ended up either being seriously beaten or with severe injuries. I know one person who sustained an injury to his eye during one of these beatings, and for a whole year we fought vainly – KOR [Komitet Obrony Robotników (Workers' Defence Committee)] also provided medical assistance – but sadly, we weren't able to save his eye. But there were people who had concussion, broken arms and legs, bruised internal organs, and they received these injuries in a manner of different ways.

Jak tu wyglądały te... te wydarzenia? Kiedy robotnicy dowiedzieli się o podwyżce cen, zastrajkowało dużo zakładów w kraju wtedy. Ale w Radomiu robotnicy zakładów metalowych imienia generała Waltera zdecydowali się na to, żeby po prostu wyjść na ulicę wzywając innych do, swoich kolegów z innych zakładów, do demonstracji. Podobnie zrobili robotnicy z Ursusa. Ursus właściwie jest przedmieściem Warszawy, nawet administracyjnie wchodzi w skład i mieści się w granicach miasta. Natychmiast władza odpowiedziała akcją zmasowanych oddziałów milicji obywatelskiej, a głównie od dłuższego czasu przygotowywanej formacji zmotoryzowanych oddziałów milicji obywatelskiej, którzy do akcji wkraczali już po specjalnych przeszkoleniach, mających na celu przygotowanie ich do rozpraszania demonstracji ulicznych. Odbywało się to bardzo brutalnie, to znaczy bito wielkimi, bojowymi pałami, nie takimi, jakie nosi przy sobie na co dzień milicjant, nie bacząc na to, czy to spowoduje złamania, wstrząsy mózgu czy tym podobne skutki i w związku z tym była masa ludzi po prostu uszkodzonych, rannych z tego powodu. Ludzi chwytanych przeprowadzano przez tak zwane żartobliwie „ścieżki zdrowia”. Była to nazwa żartobliwa wymyślona przez samą milicję. Wyglądało to w ten sposób, że w szpalerze podwójnym milicjantów przechodził taki człowiek, a jeżeli stawiał opór, to go wleczono, a wszyscy będący w tym szpalerze milicjanci bili go tak długo, dopóki nie przeszedł całej swojej drogi. Zależnie od tego, jak długa była ta ścieżka zdrowia, w jakim akurat stanie, w jakiej euforii znajdowali się milicjanci, kończyło się to albo groźnym pobiciem, albo okaleczeniami nawet. Znam człowieka o którego oko uszkodzone w czasie takiego bicia, przez rok daremnie walczyliśmy, bo KOR niósł również pomoc lekarską poszkodowanym i niestety nie udało się uratować. Ale na różny sposób ludzi ze wstrząsami mózgu, z połamanymi kończynami, z odbitymi narządami wewnętrznymi była masa.

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: Marcel Łoziński Jacek Petrycki

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.

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.

Tags: Radom, Ursus, General Walter Metal Works, Warsaw, KOR, Workers Defence Committee

Duration: 3 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 14 March 2011