Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Forty Years On: Lessons from Poland’s Lockdown


Poland lockdown martial law totalitarianism tyranny resistance parallel society

On December 13th 1981, Poland entered a state of Martial Law that would last for two years. Two years into our own “new normal”, an eyewitness to both sees repeating patterns.

Early evening, on the Saturday of 12 December 1981, I walked across my local park in Warsaw to meet up with a new friend Iza to see the film ‘Hair’ which had been screened in Poland since 1980.

It was cold and it was starting to snow.  We were both eighteen, both in the last year of secondary school. Over two hours later, after an exhilarating experience of unforgettable music, themes of resistance to the Vietnam war, issues of racial justice, peace, love and youth and the spirit of freedom we left the cinema to a still night, by now covered by over a foot of snow.

We walked slowly through the park, talking excitingly about the film, relishing the spirit of freedom, fresh snow was creaking under our winter boots, the trees and bushes now bore heavy glittery load. Iza and I planned to meet up soon again. A magical quiet Saturday night in a country gripped by an economic disaster and political turmoil.

Like many of my friends I woke up on that fateful Sunday morning disappointed that my favourite satirical radio programme (60 Minutes per Hour) was not on. In fact, nothing, as I remember was on the radio except sombre classical music.

The same was pumped from one of only two TV channels, followed by an even more sombre prime minister General Jaruzelski in his military uniform reading out his announcement of the imposition of martial law.  In Polish, the phrase is ‘stan wojenny’, which translates as state of war.  That sounded serious.  A war.  Against whom?  (more...)

Forty Years On: Lessons from Poland’s Lockdown

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