President commemorates Wujek massacre victims

Speaking at a ceremony in Katowice on Thursday marking the 40th anniversary of the incident, Duda said the nine miners had given up their lives for a free Poland. Hanna Bardo/PAP

President Andrzej Duda has commemorated the victims of the December 16, 1981 shooting dead of nine striking miners at the Wujek coalmine in southern Poland.

The massacre, the bloodiest single incident of martial law, was carried out by communist security forces as they attempted to pacify the striking mine.

Speaking at a ceremony in Katowice on Thursday marking the 40th anniversary of the incident, Duda said the nine miners had given up their lives for a free Poland.

"The miners from Wujek died for a free Poland. Looking at Poland today - free, independent, sovereign - one must say that their blood had not been spilt in vain," the president said.

"That strike, called out in protest against martial law, against the Poles' enslavement by the authorities... against the communists, was not only a strike by workers awaiting better working conditions, pay and living standards. It was a strike for a free Poland that would be truly independent and sovereign," Duda said in Katowice.

The pacification at Wujek was part of a broader campaign aimed at breaking the Solidarity free trade union after the introduction of martial law in Poland in 1981.