President, lower house speaker commemorate 1970 Gdynia tragic events

It is the victims of the December 1970 events who made it possible for Poles today to live once again in an independent and sovereign homeland," President Andrzej Duda wrote in a letter marking the 1970 tragic events in Poland's northern city of Gdynia.

The protests, which erupted in cities on the Baltic coast on December 14, 1970 over planned food price hikes, culminated on December 17, when police opened fire on shipyard workers, killing many people going to work. According to official data, in December 1970, 44 people were killed in Poland's northern cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg, including 18 in Gdynia. Over 1,160 were wounded.

The letter from Andrzej Duda was read out by the president's aide, Zofia Romaszewska during a Monday ceremony at the monument to the December 1970 Victims in Gdynia, where 48 years ago militia and army troops used firearms for the first time against people going to work.

The president stressed that shipyard workers from Gdynia, Gdańsk and Szczecin followed in the footsteps of participants in the 1956 protests in Poland's western city of Poznań. "Like their predecessors, (...) they demanded that the dignity of work as well as human and civil rights be restored, and protested against exploitation and persecution on the part of the communist regime," the president wrote.

President Duda underlined that the Polish people - whenever they started to fight - always demanded bread, freedom and a new Poland. "And that is why today, at this special time when we are observing Poland's independence centenary, let me stress that all independence struggles have been for good and included in the tradition of Polish national uprisings, and that their participants are the heroes of our Polish freedom, just like all Poles fighting for independence in the 19th and 20th centuries."

The president emphasised that the December protests were crushed with extreme brutality. "The regime used huge force against defenceless workers, namely the militia, armoured, sea and air forces. A few dozen protesters were killed, with nearly half of them here in Gdynia."

A letter to the participants in the observances was also written by Sejm (lower house) Speaker Marek Kuchciński.

"The tradition of December 1970 has become a very important element of our identity: there would be no independent and free Poland today without the events on the Polish coast," he stressed.