Public TV to honour Solidarity heroes of martial law period

Polish public television TVP joined the celebrations of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the introduction of martial law in Poland, organising, inter alia, the “Passports of Freedom” campaign.

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“I hope that our action is just the beginning, that it is actually the first such fire, a signal, because there are thousands of heroes in Poland,” said Mateusz Matyszkowicz, a member of the TVP board at a press briefing inaugurating the campaign.

“In fact, one generation has passed since 1989 and today we are getting to know the history of that time anew,” he stated, adding that nowadays, there are attempts “to find those heroes who have stayed in the shadow after 1989.”

“Let us remember that Solidarity is not a few, or a dozen or so names - it is a gigantic social movement. And it was during this period of martial law that a large part of people belonging to this movement incurred a huge price related to the fact that they decided not to live in peace, but to fight for freedom,” Mr Matyszkowicz recalled.

The board member of TVP explained that the “Passports of Freedom” campaign had two goals.

“The first is related to erasing white spots, showing history as it was through the eyes of those who actually created Solidarity, who suffered the greatest sacrifices related to the fact that they belonged to Solidarity,” he said.

“And the second goal is very specific, very important to us. When we look at these real, silent heroes of Solidarity, we see that after 1989 they were not always lucky. Each mature society keeps (...) the memory of those who fought for their homeland. Each society takes special care of these people, ensuring that they do not lack anything,” Mr Matyszkowicz noted.

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The series of 13 documentaries by Sławomir Keller about Solidarity activists who will be awarded the “Passports of Freedom” will be broadcast from Monday to Friday at 19:30 local time on TVP Historia, as well as on TVP Historia 2 channels. The award gala will be broadcast on December 12 at 21:40 CET on TVP1 and TVP Historia channels.

The partners of the campaign are: NSZZ Solidarity, the Free Word Association, the “Dignity” Association and the Institute of National Remembrance.

Martial law in Poland

On December 13, 1981, the communist authorities imposed martial law in Poland. The military was on the streets, Solidarity leaders were interned, phone connections were cut off and the country’s borders were closed.

The authorities claimed that Solidarity, the 10 million strong trade union and political movement “had brought the economy to its knees” and that “the country was on the verge of civil war.” Those Solidarity activists who escaped imprisonment organised strikes that were ruthlessly and violently put down.

Most of them were imprisoned without charge, and as many as 91 people were killed. Martial Law was lifted two years later, in 1983, yet many political prisoners remained in jail until a general amnesty in 1986.