Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most ignominious acts of terror perpetrated by the communist authorities of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL) — the clampdown on miners of the “Wujek” coal pit protesting against the introduction of martial law in Poland.
The events at “Wujek” are recognised as the greatest tragedy of martial law, announced on December 13, 1981. The news of the arrest of the head of the mine’s Solidarity union Jan Ludwiczak urged Solidarity members and miners to initiate a strike.
But the communist regime thought little of negotiations and peaceful solution-seeking. On December 16, tanks rolled into the mine premises, followed by armed paramilitary Motorized Reserves of the Citizens’ Militia (ZOMO) troops deployed to quell the dissent. A special ZOMO platoon opened fire with live ammunition at the miners killing six on the spot and wounding others out of whom one died several hours after the assault. Two more miners died from wounds at the beginning of January 1982.
The “Wujek” coal pit pacification was part of the Martial Law introduced on the night of December 12-13, 1981, by a military junta led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski. The communist regime feared losing power amid the growing popularity of the “Solidarity” - the multi-million-strong trade union and social movement. Eventually being suspended on December 31, 1982, it was revoked on July 22, 1983, while retaining some repressive legislation. The military coup cost the lives of at least several dozen Poles.