13 December 2010

Today in Polish History

Today is December 13 and while I was too young to remember the events of this day, it is imprinted in the minds of many Poles as being a day to remember. Well, one of many, Poles like many people, like to remember their nations history.

December 13th is the anniversary of when the Communist government controlling Poland at the time declared "Martial Law", a term many Americans may not understand. I, myself, did not grow up hearing about Martial Law, but then, my parents and all other Poles called it Stan Wojenny (pronounced "Stahn Vo-Yen-ny" with the "a" sound in Stan sounding like in polska and in Wojenny, the double "n" sound sounding like in many Spanish words and the "Y" sounding like in the name Lynn), which means "State of War", even though there was no war. Well, unless you counted that the Communist regime in control at the time viewed the Solidarity movement as being an attack on the government.

What does Stan Wojenny mean to Polish memories? My father, if I could ever successfully get him to discuss the past, would tell me that there were Russian tanks poised along the Polish border, ready to strike. A curfew was imposed, the people woke up and found thousands of military vehicles and personnel patrolling the streets of every major city, the airports were closed, certain classes in schools and universities were suspended, the national borders were closed, road access to major cities was denied, the mail was censored, telephone lines were disconnected. People affiliated with the Solidary movement and strikes were arrested. People were killed. This was real fear.  This was no movie, no novel, this was real, happening in a real country, to real people, very recently in human history...

And that wasn't all that started. People were forced to work a 6 day working week again (this had previously been imposed and later lifted). Many industries, such as but not limited to the coal mines, mass media, power stations, the ports, health care services, were placed under "military management", and it's workers subjugated to "verification" where their attitudes toward the regime was questioned. Many teachers, journalists, etc. were banned from working, some even arrested. Instead of the typical court system, military courts were used, basically overriding the people's rights.

So, in summary, one can say that today in history was a day of oppression in Poland under the Communist regime, which the US and Britain allowed to have control over Poland after WWII. As such, it is a bitter subject for many.

If you have any memories or information regarding this date, please feel free to share...

Also, this is the first of many posts I plan on writing on historical dates in Polish history. If you have any you are interested in learning about or sharing, please feel free to comment as well...

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