As you know, the growth of opposition sentiment in Poland led to the introduction of martial law in 1981. This was facilitated by the activities of the Solidarity trade union, headed by Lech Walesa. As early as February 11, 1981 was appointed Prime Minister of Poland, Army General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who had been Minister of Defense of the country since 1969. October 18 1981. He became the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party (PUWP). 12 December 1981, Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law on the territory of the NDP. He informed the Soviet leadership of this, stressing that he assumes all responsibility for the consequences of this important step. The introduction of martial law was the last measure of the Polish Communists in an attempt to neutralize the activities of the opposition. Representatives of the most radical wing of the PUWP demanded that the party and state leadership immediately deal with opposition leaders. In the first days of martial law, Lech Walesa and more than 3 of thousands of other Solidarity activists were detained by the police.
The positions of Solidarity were strong among the Polish miners. When police and security forces began detaining opposition activists on the night of December 13, the chairman of the trade union committee of the coal mine Vuek, Jan Ludwiczek, was arrested. The Vuyek mine was located near the city of Katowice in southern Poland, in the historic land of Upper Silesia. The very next day, the miners became aware of the arrest of Jan Ludwiczek. Workers began to gather in groups, express indignation at what was happening. The protest moods were roused by trade union activists, who decided to go on strike at the mine in order to secure the release of Ludwiczek and the cessation of the persecution of Solidarity activists. The trade union committee demanded to immediately release Jan Ludwiczek, and also to stop the campaign against Solidarity and to cancel the martial law imposed in the country. At first, the authorities tried to calm the trade union leaders by entering into negotiations with them, but both sides did not understand each other and the negotiations failed.
Understanding perfectly well that the authorities would soon give the order to suppress the demonstration by force, the miners began to build barricades. Groups of activists set up observer posts near the mine, in time to notify the rest of the approach of the police. The actions of the strikers were supported by some local residents, which was understandable - after all, their relatives and friends worked at the mine. Residents wore warm clothes to miners, helped with food. At the same time, performances began in other coal mines. December 15 authorities dispersed protesters at the July Manifesto and Staszic mines.
On the morning of December 16, the Polish leadership issued an order to introduce special police units into the enterprise’s territory. To break up demonstrations and fight against riots in Poland, there was a special structure - ZOMO (Zmotoryzowane Odwody Milicji Obywatelskiej, which can be translated as “Motorized support of civilian police”). ZOMO was a police special unit, somewhat reminiscent of the modern Russian riot police. True, the decision to create a ZOMO in Poland was made much earlier than in the Soviet Union began to create special police units.
Even 24 December 1956 of the year, the NDP Council of Ministers, comprehending the events in Poznan in June 1956, realized the need to create police units of increased mobility, with good training and special motivation of personnel. For the first time of its existence, ZOMO was staffed by volunteers from the police and the army, who were attracted by a good salary and preferential conditions of service. But by 1970. the number of volunteers willing to carry out such a specific service has drastically decreased, so the authorities had to resort to recruiting ZOMO by conscription. Of course, this affected the quality of the detachments, although the core of the special forces were still ideologically correct personnel.
In Polish society, ZOMO was treated very coolly, and the opposition did not hide their hatred towards the Polish “riot policemen” at all. This was also not surprising, since police units used to disperse demonstrations and prosecute dissenters often encounter many complaints from the public. It seems that their service is necessary, but its specificity sets up not only oppositionists, but also many ordinary citizens against police special forces. So the ZOMO detachments, which protected public order, fought against crime and participated in the elimination of emergency situations, went down in history due to their use against the Polish opposition. And 1981-1983. became the time of maximum use of ZOMO. Their numbers grew from 6,5 to 12 thousands of fighters.
ZOMO formed the basis of government units deployed on the morning of December 16, 1981 to the Vuek mine. 8 ZOMO companies arrived in the mine area, as well as ORMO units (police reservists), 3 army motorized rifle companies and 1 tank company. The government forces were armed with 30 armored vehicles and 7 water cannons. The number of miners willing to take part in the confrontation was 500-700 people. At 9 a.m., the deputy chief of the regional military headquarters, Colonel Peter Gubka, Colonel Cheslav Pekarski and Vice President of Katowice Jerzy Siran arrived at the mine. Officials demanded that the workers immediately disperse and stop the illegal actions, but the miners did not obey the orders of the city and military authorities.
Despite the cold weather, an order was given to disperse workers with water cannons. After that, the mine began to bombard special means with tear gas. At the beginning of the operation, government forces tried to do without blood and hoped to disperse the protesters with the help of special means. But it did not work out. Then the tanks went into action, with the help of which they began to ram the walls of the enterprise and barricades. After the ZOMO fighters broke into the mine, the workers clashed with them. Armed with tools — above all, with shovels and stones, they attacked special forces soldiers. Wounded 41 fighter ZOMO and 1 soldier.
At around noon 11-12, the commandant of the voivode of the civil police in Katowice, police colonel Jerzy Gruba, contacted the minister of internal affairs, lieutenant-general Cheslav Kischak. He said that the mine was in a dangerous situation, the miners did not obey the orders of the police and resist with the help of improvised items. The colonel said that the commanders of the ZOMO detachments are requesting permission to use weapons against the protesters. General Kischak did not allow the use of weapons and ordered the withdrawal of police forces from the enterprise’s territory in order to consider further actions by the authorities against the protesting miners. However, at the mine itself, the situation by this time was heated to the limit.
Fighters of a special platoon of ZOMO, commanded by ensign Romuald Zislak, entered the territory of the mine. The platoon was not equipped with the necessary shields and batons in such situations, but was armed only with submachine guns. The number of the platoon was about twenty people, it included two teams of fighters. In the midst of clashes, the fighters of the special platoon of ZOMO opened fire to kill with military weapons. Nine protesters were killed - Jan Stavisisky, Joachim Gnida, Jozef Chekalsky, Krzysztof Giza, Ryszard Gzik, Bohuslav Kopchak, Andrzej Pelka, Zbigniew Wilk and Zenon Zayonts. More than twenty people from among the protesters were injured.
The miners' resistance was crushed by 17.30 16 December 1981. To 19.00, the miners left the enterprise. Speech at the Vuek Mine was crushed. Between 19 and 22 December, the police detained seven people, who were accused by the investigating authorities of directing the strikers. Three of them were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment - from three to four years. At first, the Polish leadership did not advertise the details of what happened at the Vuek mine, and only two weeks after the suppression of workers' speeches, Chairman of the Council of the State Henrik Jablonski told the people about what had happened, but did not criticize the use of force by the special forces of the Interior Ministry of Poland.
Events at the Vuek Mine showed that the Polish leadership was ready for the most extreme measures in suppressing anti-Communist opposition speeches. At the same time, interestingly, the division general (Lieutenant-General) Cheslav Kischak (1925-2015, pictured), who headed the Ministry of Interior of the People’s Republic of Poland and was the main head of ZOMO, was not a supporter of total suppression of opposition movements in the country, although resorted to tough measures in the fight against "Solidarity". Kiszak simply had no other choice, because otherwise Poland could plunge into chaos.
After the collapse of the communist government in Poland and the country's transition to pro-Western positions, the glorification of events at the Vuhek mine began. The dead miners were declared national heroes. In 1991, Polish law enforcement began an investigation into the use of weapons at the Vuek mine. However, the trial, which took place in 1997, ended with the justification of eleven special ZOMO platoon soldiers who took part in those events. Eleven more people were exempted from punishment for the lack of evidence of their involvement in the shooting of the miners. However, in 1998, this court decision was reversed by the appellate instance, after which the case was returned for further investigation. In 2001, the district court in Katowice again determined that it was impossible to find a complete set of evidence in the case of the shooting of miners at the Vuek mine, therefore it is impossible to establish the true perpetrators. Again, this judgment was appealed.
More than a quarter of a century after the events at the Vuek mine, in 2007, the trial ended with convictions against former law enforcement officers of the PNRM. Fifteen people appeared before the court - middle-aged men who served in the special platoon of ZOMO in 1981. The defendants' defense argued that there was no evidence that policemen had been involved in the shooting of the miners, and that means that the defendants must be acquitted. The former ZOMO fighters themselves also denied their guilt and demanded to acquit them. But the case of the shooting at the Vuek mine had a political color, to some extent being symbolic for modern Poland. Therefore, the judges could not go to justify the “Zomovites”, even in the absence of substantial evidence.
Most of the defendants received from 2,5 to 3 years in prison. Romuald Zislak received the longest term, serving as commander of a special platoon. He was sentenced to eleven years in prison. At the same time, the court was unable to establish who directly gave the order to open fire on the miners. Initially, this was suspected of Mariana Okrytny, who served as deputy police chief of Katowice, but no evidence of his involvement in the order was found, so the court was forced to acquit the former police officer.
In 1989, ZOMO was dissolved. The Polish press has since created a very negative image of the fighters of these units, the word “Zomovets” has become a household word. It is noteworthy that, although ordinary fighters and junior commanders of the detachment were brought to criminal responsibility in post-communist Poland, the top leadership of law enforcement agencies of the Polish People's Republic did not suffer any punishment. The same general Kischak, after 1990, retired from state and political affairs and survived the rest of his days safely. It was only at the end of the first decade of the new century that the court recalled an elderly, retired general. In 2009, Kischak was given 2 of the year without the right to amnesty for religious discrimination - evidence was found that in 1985, the general allegedly fired a police officer from the service because his daughter had passed the first communion in the Catholic Church. In the 2012 year, 87-year-old Kischak was convicted of preparing and executing "illegal martial law" in Poland in 1981. However, in 2015, the former Minister of the Interior died at the age of 90.
The use of firearms against unarmed miners, for obvious reasons, is estimated in the society negatively. However, it is not necessary to associate this event exclusively with the features of the regime of General Jaruzelski. Such brutal measures against the protesters have repeatedly been resorted to and continue to be resorted to by police services in many countries of the world, including the United States and the states of Western Europe, whose authorities most of all like to talk about human rights.