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    Black Thursday: Poland commemorates 52nd anniversary of December 1970 protests

    The 1970 Polish protests (Polish: “Grudzień 1970”, lit. ’December 1970′) occurred in northern Poland during 14–19 December 1970. This year, Poland commemorates 52nd anniversary of these events.

    On December 12, 1970, just two weeks before Christmas, party and state authorities decided to raise food prices, which they announced the next day, on Sunday. The prices of basic foodstuffs increased vitally.

    On Black Thursday, Poles were killed as a result of the brutal pacification of workers’ protests by the communist authorities. According to official data, in December 1970, on the streets of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg, 44 people were killed (including 18 in Gdynia) and over 1,160 were injured by bullets from the militia and army.

    The first to join the strike on Monday, December 14, were the workers of the Lenin Gdańsk Shipyard. The first clashes with the militia began.

    Gdynia, 17 December 1970: workers marching with the body of Zbigniew Godlewski

    The symbol of the clashes became Zbyszek Godlewski, whose corpse was carried through the streets of Gdynia.

    Zbigniew Eugeniusz Godlewski (3 August 1952 – 17 December 1970) was a Polish teenager shot dead by security forces during the 1970 Polish protests in the city of Gdynia. The event was popularized across the country in the poem and song, known by the name of “Ballad of Janek Wiśniewski”.

    Zbyszek Godlewski, the real protagonist of the “Ballad of Janek Wiśniewski”, may have fallen down, but he grew into a symbol which dented the regime.

    Ballad of Janek Wiśniewski:

    Guys from Grabówek, Chylonia lads,
    
    Today Militia* used firearms
    
    Our stones hit target, we stood our ground
    
    Janek Wiśniewski’s down
    
    Down Świętojańska, sprawled on door planks
    
    carried against them cops, them tanks
    
    You shipyard lads, avenge your man
    
    Janek Wiśniewski’s down
    
    In clouds of gas and bangers’ cracks
    
    blows raining down on workers’ backs
    
    they drop the old, women, the young
    
    Janek Wiśniewski’s down
    
    Some end up hurt, others fall dead
    
    The thugs from Słupsk* wanted blood shed
    
    The Party’s shooting the workers now
    
    Janek Wiśniewski’s down
    
    …
    
    Mothers, don’t weep, it’s not in vain
    
    Black-ribboned flag on shipyard crane
    
    For bread and freedom, new Polish home
    
    Janek Wiśniewski’s down
    
     
    
    *Citizens’ Militia, the main police force in communist Poland
    
    *Cadets from Citizens’ Militia school in Słupsk

    Today we commemorate thousands of arrested, beaten, dismissed from work and harassed in various other ways participants of protests. Nevertheless, the workers from the coast did not prevent the government from implementing its goal of increased food prices, which was achieved a few weeks later, after the 1971 Łódź strikes.

    Although more than half a century has passed since the massacre in Gdynia, the families of the victims still remember about this tragic days. Oppressors have never been brought to justice and held accountable by the representatives of the communist regime for the leadership of this crime.

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