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Arrival in London

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Imprisonment
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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So then I was sent to a normal prison, no longer to the hospital wing but to an ordinary cell. Apart from anything else, it was awfully boring. I invented a game to try to lessen the boredom. On top of that, my cellmate was really dreary so the boredom was even worse, but I have to say that the detention cell in Mokotów isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person in life, although this was martial law and there were other ‘professionals’ there but professionals in the prison service know well what's worth the risk and what isn't, what they can get away with and what they can't, what can lead to complications for them and what definitely won't, and as a result their behaviour remains within the boundaries of decency. As far as the conditions in the prison go, it's not the worse except of course, the longer you're in there, the worse you start to feel because, well, I can't imagine how I'd feel after a few years inside, the time I spent there was still within the limits of what's bearable. Meanwhile, on the outside, efforts were being made to enable me to go to London, where I'd had surgery in ‘78, for medical care. It's not that easy to go to London when you're being detained. However, Poland is the kind of country where this person knows that person, this one likes that one, while that one is very highly placed, there are protests in the West – my doctor, the one who performed surgery on me once and is hugely overworked, went to see the ambassador twice to demand an explanation why, despite a doctor's appointment, Mr Lipski was absent, by what rights is he being prevented from attending his appointment, the doctor will take this up with the International Health Organisation and similar institutions, so all of these things together – all of this and these efforts, this pressure, this protection – made General Jaruzelski decide that I could be allowed out of the country, and I imagine that the people who talked him into letting me go were probably of the opinion that I would go away and never come back and that they'd be rid of a problem. You could say I went virtually from the prison cell because I only had a very short stay at home; my wife had been making arrangements in the meantime. When she told the clerk in the passport office that unfortunately she couldn't supply her husband's personal ID papers because they were currently in the same place as her husband, that is, in the prison in Mokotów, the woman or rather the girl laughed heartily and said: ‘Do you really imagine that under those circumstances your husband will be going anywhere?’

No i zaczęło się... taki już normalny pobyt w więzieniu, już po pewnym... już nie na bloku szpitalnym tylko w normalnej celi. I to, to było przede wszystkim strasznie nudne, wymyśliłem sobie jakąś taką grę, zabawę, żeby się mniej nudzić; akurat człowiek, z którym wtedy siedziałem w celi był w dodatku jeszcze nudziarz na dodatek, czyli było jeszcze nudniej. Ale znowu muszę powiedzieć, że areszt mokotowski to nie jest to najgorsze, co może człowieka w życiu spotkać... Chociaż był to stan wojenny, więc byli tam również i niefachowcy, ale fachowcy od służby więzienniczej dobrze wiedzą, co im warto robić, czego nie warto, co wolno, czego nie wolno, co może skończyć się jakimiś komplikacjami dla nich, a co na pewno nie, i zachowują się na ogół w pewnych granicach przyzwoitości w rezultacie. Nie jest to więzienie, jeżeli chodzi o warunki tam panujące, najgorsze; no, tylko oczywiście im dłużej tam się siedzi, tym człowiek się gorzej czuje ze względu na to, że no, nie wyobrażam sobie, co bym czuł po kilku latach takiego siedzenia. No tyle, co przesiedziałem, to było jeszcze do zniesienia. A tymczasem... tutaj na wolności toczyły się starania o to, żebym mógł pojechać do Londynu, gdzie byłem operowany w ’78 roku, na badania. No nie tak proste pojechać do Londynu, jeżeli jest się akurat w areszcie. Niemniej jednak Polska to jest taki kraj... ten zna kogoś, ten kogoś lubi, ma do niego sentyment, a tamten jest bardzo wysoko ustawiony akurat, na Zachodzie protestują. Mój ten lekarz, ten, który mnie operował w swoim czasie, niezwykle zapracowany człowiek, dwukrotnie nachodził ambasadora, że co to znaczy, że on wzywa pana Lipskiego na badania, pana Lipskiego nie ma, jakim prawem go nie przysyłają tam, że on będzie interweniował w Międzynarodowej Organizacji Zdrowia i tym podobnych instytucjach. I to wszystko razem połączone do kupy, te wszystkie rzeczy, te starania, te naciski, te protekcje spowodowały, że generał Jaruzelski zdecydował, że można mnie wypuścić z kraju; a sądzę, że ci, którzy go namawiali to prawdopodobnie byli zdania, że wyjadę i już jest raz na zawsze po kłopocie – mają mnie z głowy. Wyjechałem, można powiedzieć, niemalże z celi więziennej, bo z bardzo krótką tylko przerwą w domu, wszystko załatwiała żona w międzyczasie. Gdy oświadczyła urzędniczce w biurze paszportowym, że niestety dowodu osobistego męża dać nie może, dlatego że dowód osobisty znajduje się tam, gdzie mąż się znajduje, to znaczy w areszcie w więzieniu mokotowskim, no to ta pani czy dziewczyna bardzo długo perliście się śmiała i powiedziała: „To Pani sobie naprawdę wyobraża, że w tych warunkach Pani mąż wyjedzie?”

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: Poland, Mokotów, London, International Health Organisation, General Wojciech Jaruzelski

Duration: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 14 March 2011