Death of student beaten to death by communist police remembered

President Duda today laid a wreath in memory of a student who was beaten to death by Poland’s Communist police. Paweł Supernak

President Duda today laid a wreath in memory of a student who was beaten to death by Poland’s Communist police.

On 14 May 1983, high school student Grzegorz Przemyk, 19, had been out with friends celebrating their end of school exams when he was stopped by police. 

Przemyk, the only son of Solidarity activist Barbara Sadowska, who helped fellow members who had been interned and arrested after Martial Law, suspected that he was in danger.

His mother, who had been interrogated many times by the secret police about her activities, had been told that Grzegorz would be harmed if she did not reveal details about Solidarity members as well as their and her activities.

That afternoon, Grzegorz and his friends were stopped in Castle Square in Warsaw’s Old Town by militiaman Ireneusz Kosciuk who demanded to see their ID cards. 

After they refused, Kosciuk began hitting Grzegorz with a rubber truncheon before he and a friend were taken to the police station.

Whilst there other policemen continued to severely beat Grzegorz until he lost consciousness. Reportedly, his screams of pain were so loud, that duty officer, Arkadiusz Denkiewicz, asked the policemen to beating him more quietly. 

After Grzegorz lost consciousness, police called an ambulance but reported that he was a drug addict and asked him to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

On the following day, his health deteriorated and he was rushed to general hospital. Before losing consciousness he managed to tell the doctors that he had been severely beaten by police officers. 

He underwent emergency surgery and was transferred to an intensive care unit where he later died. 

Grzegorz’s death provoked outrage across Poland and many accused the communist regime of murdering him in retaliation for his mother’s activities. 

The leaders of the Communist regime denied the allegation and claimed that Grzegorz and his friend were “two drunken guys who clashed with the police."

Grzegorz Przemyk's Funeral, Warsaw, May 19th, 1983
(Photo by Tadeusz Zagoździński)

His funeral on May 19 at Powazki cemetery was attended by over 50,000 people who took part in a silent march. 

Despite a complete lack of evidence, two paramedics, Michał Wysocki and Jacek Szyzdek, were charged with Grzegorz’s death and sentenced to two years in prison after police denied any involvement. 

After about a month, they were silently amnestied and released. They lost their jobs, however, and suffered from depression. Their convictions were rendered invalid in 1989 after the fall of communism.

At today’s ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of his death, President Duda said: The death in Warsaw of the young man, a high school graduate, in 1983, was something of a symbol of the Polish People’s Republic for my generation. Enslavement, lies and death. 

“The communist government of the time, headed by Generals Jaruzelski and Kiszczak, tried to hide this young man’s death at all costs (…) they shifted responsibility.”

To this day, not one of those responsible has been held accountable for the murder of Grzegorz Przemyk.