Stan Wojenny
December 13, 2011 5:54 AM   Subscribe

On December 13, 1981, Poland awoke to an announcement by Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski declaring a "state of war" (stan wojenny). Martial law would last until July 22, 1983.

Jaruzelski: "... Citizens! ... I declare, that today the Military Council of National Salvation has been formed. In accordance with the Constitution, the State Council has imposed martial law all over the country. I wish that everyone understood the motives of our actions. A military coup, military dictatorship is not our goal. ... I appeal to all the citizens. A time of heavy trials has arrived. And we have to stand those in order to prove that we are worthy of Poland. Before all the Polish people and the whole world I would like to repeat the immortal words: Poland has not yet perished, so long as we still live!" (video)

Early that morning, security police rounded up Solidarity leaders, political dissidents, and others perceived to be a threat to the regime.

The Mililtary Council of National Salvation (Polish acronym: WRON) initiated curfews, strengthened censorship, and delegalized all independent organizations, including the Solidarity trade union (warning: autoplay).

Jaruzelski, now 87, is dying of cancer. Yesterday he issued an apology for martial law, calling it a "lesser evil" than an invasion by the Soviet Union (a possibility many dismiss).

More news on the anniversary: NYT, Sac Bee, Warsaw Business Journal. In Polish: 13grudnia81, Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza.

For more about Jaruzelski, I really recommend The Haunted Land by Tina Rosenberg.
posted by orrnyereg (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I awoke to no Teleranek and APCs on the streets. After the initial shock had passed our parents shrugged and told me (12 years old) and my brother (13) to get our sled and go hunt some potatoes. We found them in third of four fruit-and-veg shops in our neighborhood. I remember queuing for hours and hours to buy salted butter from international aid. Other than that, it was a quiet, dull, long winter for us children.
The news of Wujek mine pacification wouldn't reach us for months - our parents must have known, but told us nothing.
posted by hat_eater at 6:38 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was about nine years old when this happened and I still remember being at home alone, I guess watching the TV, and misinterpreting the announcement, thinking it meant a nuclear war was beginning. I recall pacing back and forth in our living room, staring past our curtains at the gloomy weather outside and thinking, well, that was that - I was going to get blown up very shortly on a grey stormy day by myself at home.

I'd actually kind of forgotten all that until I saw this post.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:41 AM on December 13, 2011 [9 favorites]

You mad, bro?
posted by resurrexit at 7:15 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a side note, the only way I've been able to remember how to pronounce the "woj" combination in Polish is because of this former general's name.

("Woj" in Polish is pronounced "voy." Detective Stanley Thadeus "Wojo" Wojciehowicz, from Barney Miller, should have had his last name said as "VOY-che-wits," but I don't think "Voyo" would have been as catchy of a nickname.)
posted by stannate at 7:22 AM on December 13, 2011

should have had his last name said as "VOY-che-wits,"

Probably closer to "voy-cheh-HO-veetch".

prah-tsoh-VEE-tih Lokken
posted by pracowity at 7:33 AM on December 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

("Woj" in Polish is pronounced "voy." Detective Stanley Thadeus "Wojo" Wojciehowicz, from Barney Miller, should have had his last name said as "VOY-che-wits," but I don't think "Voyo" would have been as catchy of a nickname.)

I think Americanized pronunciations of Polish last names are pretty common. I grew up pronouncing my maiden name (Kazmierczak) as KAZ-merr-zak. They basically just ignored the "extra" i and c. It should be something closer to kahz-MYEER-chek, and that's how I try to pronounce it now. (Not that it matters; everyone always ends up calling me Kaz anyway. And now you know where my username comes from.)
posted by misskaz at 7:46 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

The general's actions that day taught me a lot about the value of pragmatism. I was in high school and had an invitation to visit a cute foreign exchange student at her host family's place for a Sunday lunch. When I got there, I found out: a) the family was Polish and b) they were glued to the breaking TV coverage. She and I were able to disappear upstairs without being noticed.

I was pretty awkward and bookish kid, so the declaration of martial law in Poland remains a big deal to me.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:15 AM on December 13, 2011 [8 favorites]

I was going to get blown up very shortly

That's hardcore. On September 1st, 7 or 8 years old me was sitting on the living room floor behind an armchair when my father turned on our black and white tv set and I heard that "today at five forty* German troops crossed the Polish border, breaking the nonagression treaty". I took everything that was shown as breaking news - the dawn attack, the Wehrmacht soldiers advancing behind tanks, the diving bombers, the fires, civilians running in panic. I watched terrified my world suddenly falling apart. I reserved some hope that perhaps this is some kind of history show, but I was too afraid to ask and demonstrate my stupidity. Then, mercifully, a speaker explained that it was an archival material.
I can't exactly imagine how it was to wait for the atomic fire from the skies to turn you into ashes. But I guess it must have been more terrifying.
*actually it was at 4 AM
posted by hat_eater at 8:34 AM on December 13, 2011

One of my co-workers is Polish, raised in Canada. All day today, he's been pacing in the background, speaking on the phone in Polish.

Interesting to understand what today is for him.
posted by rocketman at 10:42 AM on December 13, 2011

posted by Renoroc at 11:08 AM on December 13, 2011

I grew up with a Polish great-grandmother, so all things pope John Paul II and Solidarnosc were familiar to us kids.
Growing up the the '80s, i lived expecting to die in a nuclear war or in some great battle on the plains of Eastern Europe. (I was no fan of Ronnie and the Warmongers).

I finally got a chance to visit Poland after college, after the end of the Warsaw Pact.
I saw the places where my family was from. I saw the places I expected to be fighting as a young man. I stayed with some friends of my siblings and it turned out the father was a legislator. He came home from Warszawa and spent the next few days plying me with liquor and talking. Turns out that the day before, Clinton had been in town to officially invite Poland into NATO. I could not have times that trip better.

Thanks for this post.
posted by Seamus at 11:57 AM on December 13, 2011

posted by Nomyte at 6:43 PM on December 13, 2011

Great post and thanks!

I caught a cab from the airport today and the driver was a Pole who (it turns out) had fled Poland in 1981 and made his way to Australia. I was able to have a 30 minute conversation with him about Polish history and politics based primarily on what I learned from this post! Couldn't have done it without you, orrnyereg. It was a great cab ride.
posted by barnacles at 2:56 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

The army and police of the Polish People’s Republic started shooting Polish workers in defence of the leading role of the Polish United Workers’ Party. (source)
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:12 AM on December 14, 2011

Poland has come a long way in 30 years.
On that anniversary, old foes met again and shook hands.. a touching gesture.
posted by ruelle at 5:16 AM on December 16, 2011

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