French daily marks anniv's of Poland's worker protests and martial law

In December 1970 protests erupted in cities on the Baltic coast on December 14, 1970, over planned food price hikes. They culminated on December 17, when police opened fire on shipyard workers, killing many people. Edmund Pepliński/PAP

A French newspaper has marked the 50th anniversary of worker protests on the Polish coast, and the 39th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by publishing an article entitled the "Unknown war in the middle of Europe".

The article, published in ‘L’ Opinion’, was part of an initiative run by the New Media Institute called 'Telling Poland to the World'.

The initiative, aimed at publicising Poland abroad, includes texts by Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister, Michał Kurtyka, climate and environment minister, Jarosław Szarek, the head of Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), the body charged with investigating wartime and communist-era crimes.

In December 1970 protests erupted in cities on the Baltic coast on December 14, 1970, over planned food price hikes. They culminated on December 17, when police opened fire on shipyard workers, killing many people.

According to official data, 44 people were killed in Poland's northern cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg, including 18 in Gdynia. Over 1,160 were wounded.

"When the societies and peoples of our region decided to rebel and openly oppose them, they were brutally suppressed,” Morawiecki wrote in the article. “This year's December is a month of particularly important anniversaries for Polish memory, the 50th anniversary of the massacre of workers on the coast and the 39th anniversary of the introduction of martial law; war declared on society by a government under communist rule from the Soviet Union. The history and identity of our Central European friends is full of similar scars."

In its article, Szarek wrote that "the tragedy on Poland's coastal city of Gdańsk, 50 years ago, constitutes the common fate of Central Europe oppressed by the communists."

Eryk Mistewicz, the head of the New Media Institute, observed that the Polish people are committed to telling the world about these anniversaries.

"We treated the topic broadly, however, as a common experience of Central European countries, an experience of an inhuman system,” he said. “We write about the 'Unknown war in the heart of Europe.' We explain to the world what our countries have experienced, why we are so sensitive to restricting freedom."