It was a normal December weekend and as 18 years old boy I was looking forward for nice Saturday evening with my friends playing cards, drinking beer and having fun. This is precisely what we have done! I said to my parents that I will probably come back at night, but as we had so much fun we decided to spend this night at my friend’s house.
Around midnight I decided to give a call to my Mam, to tell her that I will not be back, but the phone did not work. There were no mobile phones in 1981 in Poland :). Therefore, we decided to go to the nearest phone booth to try from there.
Walking down the street we have seen columns of police cars driving quickly the main street. It was unusual but not impossible in our reality. The phone in the booth didn’t work as well.
Suddenly we have seen a column of army trucks and SKOT’s – wheeled armored personnel carriers. We knew that something was going on. Quickly we rushed back home but there was nothing on radio or TV.
Only next day in the morning we learned from TV that authoritarian communistic government of Poland declared a Martial Law. The goal was to stop movement of Solidarity and democratic changes that this movement was bringing to the country.
This one day 13-12-1981 changed my life forever.
I was involved in a democratic, so-called “ illegal opposition” from 1978. Starting with self-educational meetings, reading forbidden books and articles and discussing them with young people like me and distributing flyers with uncensored news. Participating in protests organized by my older friends and helping to bring as many people there as possible to show that we do mean business. Later, participating in Movement of Young Poland and actively demonstrating my anticommunist and pro-democratic ideas. I was just 16 years old…
Than in 1980 in September we had strike’s is Gdansk, which started the most fascinating and for me, the most beautiful movement that later was called Solidarity (Solidarność).
It took a legal shape of a Trade Union, but for me it was mainly a “people movement”. I was part of it even so, I was too young to be a member of the Solidarity Trade Unions, I was in school.
Soon after the Solidarity Trade Union was legalized we started to look for the ways, how to bring the same idea to our schools. It was time of euphoria and hope.
All these feelings changed on 13-12-1981.
We didn’t know what will happen. The mix of disbelieve, fear and anger is a good description of what was going on in my mind. Many of my older friends have been captured and imprisoned. Others went in hiding to not be captured.
At this point I knew that I will do what I can to not live in the political system build on intimidation, lies and disrespect. Either I will fight-or-flight but I will not spend all my live living psychically enslaved.
First it was fight… Protests against the Martial Law, but this time much more brutal confrontations with the police force (Milicja). Searching for direction, searching for hope which were not there to find in the first weeks… People who were an authority to me have been in hiding or imprisoned. Others were psychically down.
Few weeks later I decided with one of my friend to escape from Poland. We were not well prepared and it ended for us as one could expect. We have been captured and imprisoned. I spend 3 month in a prison before my parents could bribed a prosecutor to change the charges …
It took another 8 years for Poland to become a democratic country. All this time many, many people have been involved in the movement against the authoritarian system. We understood that democracy will not be given to us. We needed to demand it, we needed to fight for it, but not openly with power. We needed to demand it and fight for it in our daily lives, we needed to create common set of mind, we needed to show to each other that we care.
Because of 13-12-1981 and years that followed I learned very important lessons that changed the way I look at life.
First lesson, that I should never take for granted what I have. The time of euphoria and hope, the Solidarity time was destroyed for me in one day…
Second lesson, if I want something, I need to demand it and fight for it, but fight doesn’t always mean to be out there on the streets! The biggest fight is to win the minds of people. If I really want it, the best chances I have is, when there are other people fighting and working for it with me. I should never underestimate the power of movement of committed people who are pursuing the same goal. Solidarity Movement was a great lesson to me.
Third lesson, is that the best place to find freedom is inside me not out there. I wrote about this lesson in my post Freedom.
This is the way 13-12-1981 has changed my life…