Forty years ago, on April 30, 1982, the first march of several thousand people through Nowa Huta took place.
During martial law, the leaders of the “Solidarity” underground decided to peacefully oppose the repression and violence that the National Salvation Military Council was applying against society. Marches during the television daily broadcast season, lights off, resistance attached to clothing, 15-minute strikes… However, the most spectacular and structuring social resistances have been the street demonstrations. Forty years ago, on April 30, 1982, the first march of several thousand people through Nowa Huta took place.
What form of resistance?
Against the background of differences of opinion on the strategy of resistance, misunderstandings arose between the newly created structures of “Solidarity” – the Regional Executive Committee of NSZZ “Solidarność” Małopolska and the Steel Committee for the Salvation of “Solidarity” (KOS). Activists in the regional structure assumed that street protests carried the risk of violent pacification and bloodshed of participants. The opinion of the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, who was shocked by the pacifications by the militia of people leaving St. Mary’s Church after masses. for the Fatherland, which took place on the 13th of each month. However, KOS activists believed that only peaceful street protests could show the strength of the union, elevate the spirit of society, and motivate persistence in resistance.
The Nowa Huta conspirators wondered how to get a large group of people to the gathering in the safest way, without giving an excuse to intervene. Martial law restrictions prohibited the establishment of public assemblies. Stanisław Malara, one of the KOS members, then realized that natural groups of people arise in two situations: first, when leaving the temple after Sunday mass; secondly, in large factories (like the Lenin Huta Kombinat Huta) at the time of the so-called break off shifts and quit work by the day shift and start work by the afternoon shift. It was about convincing the steelworkers leaving the Combine not to take public transport, but to march together on a specific and planned route in a silent protest march.
Initially, the metalworkers wanted to carry out such an action on March 13, 1982, but it did not happen then due to opposition from the RKW Małopolska leadership and Cardinal Macharski. In the Combine, there were only 15 minutes of protests in a few departments, which were requested by the regional structure. However, the course of the demonstrations inside the factories was not visible to the public, but it was the subject of repressions against the participants who were punished by the passage to worse positions, the lowering of the note and, ultimately, even dismissal. Therefore, the metalworkers decided that, despite the criticism they faced and despite the lack of support from second-run regional magazines, they would stage a silent protest march on the route from the main gate of the Combine to the central square. of the next appointment.
Very good mood
May 1, a prestigious Labor Day for the Communist authorities, was approaching. The steelworkers decided it was the right time to launch a protest march. However, since May Day was a public holiday and the Kombinat employed fewer people at that time, it was decided that the action would be carried out on the eve of the May holiday. Two employees of Walcownia Blach Karoseryjnych, Jan Żurek and Maciej Mach, with the help of children’s printers, printed about 3-4 thousand copies. copies of a leaflet urging steelworkers to take buses and trams on April 30, after the end of the first shift, during a silent protest march to the central square. And on Labor Day, people were invited to mass. for the Fatherland in “the Ark of the Lord”. Leaflets were distributed in all the departments of the Combine, they were also scattered through the window of the tram going to the Administrative Center of Huta im. Lenin.
April 30 has finally arrived. The secret police had information about the planned demonstration, but they seemed to doubt its effectiveness and sent relatively little force to Nowa Huta. Previously, it had been agreed with the management of the Municipal Communications Company to send a dispatch and control vehicle to ensure the continuity of traffic, perhaps fearing some sort of diversion by steelworkers which would block public transport. After the end of the first shift in the Combine after 2 p.m., steel workers, instead of taking public transport and heading home, actually began to congregate outside the main gate and a few tens of minutes later, they marched in an impressive parade towards the central square. The demonstrators marched along the sidewalk, without shouting, in silence and in full concentration. The only visible symbol of this “silent march” in defense of “Solidarity” was the hands raised en masse with fingers crossed as a sign of victory. Surprised by the scale of the demonstration, the militiamen did not intervene.
According to the “second printing” magazines, which did not try to remain silent after the protest, the march of the cast was 10-20 thousand. attendees. Even RKW Małopolska Chairman Władysław Hardek in a letter to Władysław Frasyniuk boasted of the many successful May protests in Nowa Huta and Kraków, writing about the steelworkers’ march as follows:
“For information, I tell you that our events were great:
thirty.[04 – A.M.] silent march ~ 10 thousand employees of Huta Lenina, Education and Healthcare from the main gate of HiL to the central square of N. Huta. […]
Very good mood.”
The atmosphere at the Krakow security service headquarters was much worse. At the evening meeting at the provincial headquarters of the MO in Kraków, the head of Department IV, Lieutenant Colonel Józef Biel, said that the enemy had achieved their objective.
A month and a half later, on June 16, six months after the Combine strike, the metalworkers organized another march on the route from the main gate to the central square. That day, steelworkers also staged a protest, this time in the form of an “Italian strike”. According to data recorded in the press without debit, the production of the steel mill fell by 50%. After the end of the first shift, tens of thousands of employees again took part in the march, according to reports of the metro “Hutnik”, up to 50 thousand people. This time, the steelworkers were supported by a large group of students, pupils and local residents, who arrived at the administrative center of the steelworks before the start of the march. Again, the demonstration took place without any police intervention, which may have been influenced by the extraordinary number of demonstrators. Despite the announcements of the organizers, the march did not stop in the central square, because the joyful demonstrators, this time chanting slogans of solidarity and anti-regime, decided to move forward, calling to move to the cross of Nowa Huta. There, after singing the song “God something Poland”, the crowd went to the church “Ark of the Lord”. Arriving at the temple, a prayer was said, and only then did the participants in this peaceful protest begin to diverge.
Successful demonstrations in Nowa Huta prompted RKW Małopolska leaders to transfer the Masses ordered so far to St. Mary’s Church. for the homeland in Nowa Huta. However, the foundry marches and other demonstrations that followed were interrupted by attacks from numerous ZOMO units, reinforced by water cannons and armored vehicles. At that time, the demonstrators were actively defending, which usually turned into hours of fighting in the neighborhood. For two years, 19 protest marches took place in Nowa Huta. Ten of them started at the Combine’s main gate, six left the Ark after the festivities, and three started elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, as a result of ZOMO’s activities, four people died in Nowa Huta during this period: Andrzej Szewczyk, Bogdan Wlosik, Ryszard Smagur and Janina Drabowska. Many people were seriously injured as a result of tear gas canisters fired directly at people by MO agents, contrary to the rules of the instructions for the use of these missiles. Zom members also fired firecrackers into apartments, aiming at windows, which caused numerous fires. Those arrested by ZOMO officers during the protests were later sentenced to heavy fines by the misdemeanor colleges. They were supported by an appointment by Cardinal Macharski, the Archbishop’s Aid Committee, which paid the condemned sums.