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Pacification of Wujek

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Title: Pacification of Wujek  
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Subject: Martial law in Poland, 1981 in Poland, 1981 strike at the Piast Coal Mine in Bieruń, Law enforcement in Poland, Small Constitution of 1947
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Pacification of Wujek

Pacification of Wujek
Part of Martial law in Poland

The Wujek massacre memorial
Type Shooting
Location Wujek Coal Mine
Objective Crackdown on the strike
Date 16 December 1981 (1981-12-16)
Executed by ZOMO
Polish Army
Casualties 9 miners killed

The Pacification of Wujek was a strike-breaking action by the Polish police and army at the Wujek Coal Mine in Katowice, Poland, culminating in the massacre of nine striking miners on December 16, 1981.

It was part of a large-scale action aimed to break the Solidarity free trade union after the introduction of martial law in Poland in 1981. Although the strike was suppressed, in a longer term, it turned out to be a milestone towards the collapse of the authoritarian system in Poland and, ultimately, to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. It was a site of numerous protests, including by Solidarity activist Anna Walentynowicz who commemorated a plaque to the murdered miners shortly after she left prison at Gołdap.

The massacre

On December 16, three days after the introduction of the martial law in Poland, pro-Solidarity miners striking against the declaration of the martial law by General Wojciech Jaruzelski were dispersed by the troops of the Polish army and police. The forces used in the main thrust against the miners consisted of eight companies of riot police (ZOMO, supported by ORMO (police reservists) and NOMO) with seven water cannons, three companies of military infantry fighting vehicles (each of 10 vehicles) and one company of tanks. The miners repeatedly fought them off with their tools. During the brawl a number of strikers and 41 troops were injured, including 11 severely.

In the apex of the events, a commando-type special platoon of ZOMO opened the "shoot to kill" fire at the strikers, killing nine of them (Jan Stawisiński, Joachim Gnida, Józef Czekalski, Krzysztof Giza, Ryszard Gzik, Bogusław Kopczak, Andrzej Pełka, Zbigniew Wilk and Zenon Zając) and wounding 21 others. One of the deaths took place after 20 or more days in hospital with severe head-wounds.


The repressions after the pacification included sentencing of three miners to jail terms of three to four years in prison.

On June 1, 2007, more than two decades after the incident, 15 former members of the special platoon were sentenced to prison terms for their part in the killings.[1][2] Most of them were sentenced to the terms of 2.5 to three years in prison, except their former platoon commander, Romuald Cieślak, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The court however failed to establish who sent the special platoon to Wujek (and thus acquitted the former vice-chief of communist police in Katowice, Marian Okrutny).[3]

Popular culture

  • The tragedy was portrayed in the 1994 feature film Śmierć jak kromka chleba (Death like daily bread) by Kazimierz Kutz and the 2006 graphic novel 1981: Kopalnia Wujek.

See also


  1. ^ Polish court sentences 15 policemen in 1981 massacre at coal mine, International Herald Tribune, May 31, 2007
  2. ^ 'Wujek' coal mine massacre perpetrators face justice, Polskie Radio, 01.06.2007
  3. ^ Wszyscy zomowcy spod "Wujka" winni i skazani, Polska Agencja Prasowa, 2007-05-31

External links

  • Pictures from the funerals of the killed strikers
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