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Janek Wiśniewski

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Title: Janek Wiśniewski  
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Subject: 1970 Polish protests, Gdynia, Legendary Polish people, Polish songs, Polish poems
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Janek Wiśniewski

Zbyszek Godlewski
Portrait photo of Janek Wiśniewski on his grave
Born Zbyszek Godlewski
(1952-08-03)August 3, 1952
Zielona Góra, Poland
Died December 17, 1970(1970-12-17) (aged 18)
Gdynia, Poland
Cause of death Shot
Resting place Elbląg, Poland
Awards Golden Cross of Merit in 2008

Janek Wiśniewski is a fictional name given to a real person, Zbigniew Godlewski, shot dead by security forces during the Polish 1970 protests in the city of Gdynia. It has been popularized across the country in the poem Ballad of Janek Wiśniewski.

The real person

Polish 1970 protests in Gdynia: body of Zbyszek Godlewski (memorized as Janek Wiśniewski) carried by the demonstrators on a door panel

On December 17, 1970, during the Poland's demonstrations against the Communist regime the army fired into the crowd of workers emerging from a commuter train in Gdynia, under the pretext of preventing an industrial sabotage action. At least 40 innocent people were killed. The image of an anonymous young man's body carried on a door panel through the cordons of police and tanks inspired author Krzysztof Dowgiałło to write the poem about him. The name Wiśniewski was invented by Dowgiałło for the ballad to symbolize an 18-year worker killed by the military or the militia. Not knowing his real name, the author gave him a symbolic name sounding typically Polish. Later it was established by the opposition that the killed man was named Zbigniew Godlewski and had lived in nearby Elbląg.[1]

The music for the song Pieśń o Janku z Gdyni (also known as Ballada o Janku Wiśniewskim) was written by Mieczysław Cholewa. The song, along with the story of Janek Wiśniewski, was popularized when it was performed at the end of the 1981 movie Man of Iron (by actress Krystyna Janda along with Jacek Kaczmarski). After the fall of communism in Poland, a major street in Gdynia was named after Janek Wiśniewski and also a street in Elbląg was named after Zbigniew Godlewski.

In 2011, a Polish movie about the events of December 17 called "Czarny Czwartek - Janek Wiśniewski padł" ("The Black Thursday - Janek Wiśniewski down" was released to cinemas. The title was inspired by a line in "Pieśń o Janku z Gdyni". The song was covered by Kazik Staszewski and used in the movie trailer.


  1. ^ Bober, Mariusz (19 December 2008). "Niech Jaruzelski powie prawdę Z Izabelą i Eugeniuszem Godlewskimi, rodzicami Zbyszka Godlewskiego (Janka Wiśniewskiego) zastrzelonego w grudniu 1970 r. w Gdyni, rozmawia Mariusz Bober". 294 (3311) (in Polish).  
  • Man of Iron as sung by Krystyna Janda for Ballada o Janku Wiśniewskim
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