I will not bore you with another review of a Martial Law book. Or will I?
My research is actually complete and my book is almost finished. The bit I still have left to write takes place in 2012 in London. Yet my mum so lovingly found, bought and sent all those books to me that I feel obliged to read them.
Let me just list a few things I have learnt from this volume. This will be more for my benefit than for yours.
- During early days of the Martial Law there were many arrests for the slightest offences. One priest got arrested for putting up a Nativity scene which supposedly contained elements ‘damaging to the interests of the People’s Republic of Poland’. Another priest got six and a half years for distributing leaflets.
- Mieczysław Rokitowski from Przemyśl was stopped by the police with one copy of a leaflet which he found at the bus stop, he was arrested and taken to custody where he was beaten to death. With new laws under the Martial Law they didn’t have to intern people, now they could arrest them as well for all sort of random reasons.
- They cancelled all sport events, theatre shows, cinema showings. They closed museums and libraries. They even suspended Lotto. On the tv you could watch things like ‘Military Songs Festival’.
- The post censorship was an enormous undertaking. In 1982 they controlled 82.2 million parcels and letters (15% of all correspondence). 930 000 were stopped (including Solidarity leaflets, Amnesty International postcards sent from abroad, and all other letters demanding freeing political prisoners. 3 million parcels were censored this way or another.
- All that blocking of information caused rumours and urban myths to fly high. People talked about thousands killed, about people being herded on stadium, and some sent to Syberia. This was a mixture of old Polish fears about being sent to Siberia (no, seriously, it’s almost a figure of speech now, but then of course it happened to thousands of people) and new reports of what’s happening in Pinochet’s Chile
- In 1983 after the end of Martial Law and the lift of the union registration ban, there was a rush of new union. The most bizarre one was the Trade Union of the Polish United Workers’ Party Workers. The workers of the Polish Party of Workers had a union! That’s the so called ‘actually existing socialism’ for you. It’s a beauty.
- In 1982 during a heated family argument a retired colonel, supporter of Jaruzelski and the Martial Law took out his gun and aimed at his son-in-law, supporter of Solidarity. The daughter got up to shield her husband but the colonel was so angry at that point he shot the daughter and then he chased after the son and shot him too. The colonel was drunk, of course. There is a whole novel right here. Maybe I should write that one.
Fun times. That’s when my mum had her first child. Moi.