Katowice commemorates Wujek coal mine victims

Government and church officials as well as unionists and the relatives of victims on Sunday in Katowice, southern Poland, commemorated the 37th anniversary of the December 1981 killing by communist militia of nine protesting miners in the city's Wujek coal mine.

In a letter to the commemoration participants, President Andrzej Duda called the Wujek victims national heroes with a deserved place in the pantheon of Polish freedom fighters, and compared them to the generation which struggled for Poland's 1918-restored independence.

"Despite different eras and circumstances, they shared a love of their country and a relentless striving to liberate the (Polish - PAP) people from the hegemony that had been imposed upon them. I am certain that because of their courageous stance, they all fully deserve to be a source of inspiration for us contemporary Poles and future generations," the president wrote.

Addressing the commemorations, PM Mateusz Morawiecki recalled that those years were decisive for Poland's future and confirmed that "for Poles the struggle for freedom and independence is worth the highest sacrifice, the sacrifice of their own lives."

He added that there were forces in the world that wished to present a false picture of Polish history, and stressed that this was why the Poles had to "nurture remembrance and truth."

"Remembrance and truth must be nurtured (...), because all the time various forces are trying to change and falsify Polish history," Morawiecki said.

Recounting the death of the Wujek miners, Morawiecki stressed that thanks to their heroic stance against the communists Poland's path to freedom "remained open despite the black night of martial law."

In his address, Solidarity Union leader Piotr Duda said the Wujek victims were the union's heroes, who brought the country freedom, and called it "a crying shame" that no memorial to them has been erected in Warsaw.

On December 16, 1981, three days after the imposition of martial law in Poland by the country's communist authorities, a strike in Katowice's Wujek coal mine was brutally suppressed by armoured riot police units. Nine miners were killed in the clashes.