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Waiting for the Ursus trial to begin


96 hours spent in detention bring on a heart attack
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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We were taken to the police station in Ochota, and that was a very difficult experience. Firstly, it was all very scary because it looked like there was going to be a very thorough ‘constitutional walk’. But it was just made to look that way to create the right sort of impression. However, an effect which wasn't the result of spiteful behaviour on the part of the police but was the unavoidable result of the ratio between the number of people detained and the amount of room in which they were kept was terrifying. I mean the overcrowding in those detention cells was beyond anything I'd imagined. It was as packed as a tramcar not just during the rush-hour, but it was as packed as it gets when there's been a 30-minute delay and no trams have arrived in that time. It seemed unbelievable that anyone else could squeeze in, and then the door would be opened and they would literally use their knees to push one more person in. This went on for 96 hours. We didn't know how to eat when we got our food because there was no way... we didn't know how we were meant to hold our plates in such a tightly packed space. We could do virtually nothing. This ended when after 96 hours I felt a very sharp pain in my chest. At that time, my health wasn't too bad, but I just couldn't cope with those 96 hours and I knew straight away what was going on. My friends raised the alarm, the police dragged me out and I found myself in hospital in Lindley Street with, fortunately, only a mild heart attack which didn't cause too much lasting damage. I think I did the right thing by reacting quickly.

After a few days in the hospital on Lindley Street, I was taken to the hospital wing of the prison in Mokotów, and if it hadn't been for the fact that this coincided with Christmas Eve, and it's always unpleasant to be away from home for that, then if I'm to be honest, my memories of the time I spent on the hospital wing aren't at all unpleasant because the criminals who were there with me were very kind to me, especially the younger ones with whom I had very interesting conversations. It was a new world for me, their problems, their experiences. After the New Year, I took my place in the dock during the Ursus trial and was the first to be tried. The charge of organising and directing the strike was an exaggeration. When I entered Ursus, the strike was already underway and it was being directed by the strike committee which I didn't think I ought to join as the fate of the Ursus workforce ought to be decided by people from Ursus and not by people from the outside, and so I participated in the discussions held by the committee but there's no way you could say that I was directing anything. Nevertheless, I had the privilege to be the main defendant. It was all fairly unpleasant because I was still feeling ill at that point. However, there were also ridiculous situations as for instance when the prison doctor, Mr Wroński, was asked by the court about my state of health and he said that actually, I was perfectly able to stand up and run five times around the courthouse and could probably return to the courtroom without even getting breathless, while my solicitor, Jan Olszewski – my solicitor and my friend – was doing everything he could to exclude me from the trial because of the state of my health, which he finally achieved.

Po paru dniach pobytu w szpitalu na Lindley’a zostałem przewieziony na blok szpitalny więzienia mokotowskiego i gdyby nie to, że wypadła akurat Wigilia, którą bardzo nieprzyjemnie spędzać poza domem, to, prawdę mówiąc, nie wspominałbym tego pobytu tam na bloku szpitalnym specjalnie źle, dlatego że kryminaliści, wśród których się znalazłem, okazywali mi dużą życzliwość, szczególnie młodsze pokolenie, bardzo były ciekawe rozmowy z nimi, jakiś nowy świat dla mnie, problemów, ich doświadczeń się otworzył. No i po Nowym Roku zasiadłem na ławie oskarżonych w procesie ursuskim jako pierwszy oskarżony, z pewną przesadą oskarżony o zorganizowanie strajku i kierowanie nim. Gdy wszedłem do Ursusa, strajk już... już trwał, kierował nim Komitet Strajkowy do którego uważałem, że nie powinienem wchodzić, gdyż o losach ludzi w Ursusie mają ludzie z Ursusa decydować, a nie ludzie z zewnątrz, więc brałem udział w dyskusjach Komitetu, ale nie można powiedzieć, żebym kierował. No, ale wyrządzili mi ten zaszczyt, że jako główny oskarżony zasiadłem, było to dosyć nieprzyjemne, bo jeszcze się źle czułem. Ale były tam też momenty po prostu komiczne, kiedy lekarz więzienny, pan Wroński, pytany przez sąd o mój stan zdrowia, przedstawiał mnie w ten sposób, że właściwie ja mógłbym w tej chwili wstać, obiec dookoła pięć razy sądy, wrócić tutaj prawdopodobnie bez zadyszki na salę sądową; no, a mój adwokat, Jan Olszewski – mój adwokat i zarazem mój przyjaciel – robił co mógł, żeby mnie wyłączono ze sprawy ze względu na stan zdrowia, co zresztą uzyskał.

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: Ochota, Lindley Street

Duration: 2 minutes, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 14 March 2011