Poland has marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most crucial events of its post-war history- the communist government’s crackdown on political opposition. Prime Minister Jaroslav Kaczynski laid a wreath at the tomb of one of the victims of martial law, which was imposed suddenly on this day in 1981.
The remembrance ceremony included religious services and a special session in parliament, attended by former presidents including Lech Walesa. Nearly 100 people died in the communist blitz, during which tanks rolled along the streets, telephone lines were cut and the country’s borders were closed.
Tens of thousands of people were arrested without charge. Analysts say it marked the beginning of the end for communism in Poland. General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland’s then Prime Minister, declared martial law in 1981 to quash the anti-communist trade union ‘Solidarity’. The group was led by the charismatic Lech Walesa.
Walesa was jailed, as was current President Lech Kaczynski. Jaruzelski claimed he did it to prevent civil war and a Soviet invasion. Now 83, he is in hospital suffering from pneumonia. He faces charges of violating the Polish constitution and what prosecutors label ‘other communist crimes’. If convicted, he faces up to 11 years in prison. Walesa and Solidarity helped topple the communist government in 1989.