President writes moving letter in memory of those who died and stood up against Communist oppression during Poznan Uprising 63 years ago today
The June 1956 events in Poznan were one of those moments in our history that revealed the power of the Poles' spirit of freedom, President Andrzej Duda wrote in a letter to participants in the 63rd anniversary celebrations of the anti-communist protests.
The demonstration broke out on 28 June 1956 in the city's renowned Cegielski engineering plant as the first mass protest against Poland's post-war communist regime.
Demanding better working conditions, about 100,000 protesters, mainly workers, rallied in the city's downtown section near the local security ministry building, where they were confronted by 400 army tanks and a 10,000-strong force of military and security police units under the Polish-Soviet general Stanislav Poplavsky.
Ordered to suppress the protests at all costs, soldiers and security corps opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 58 people, including a 13-year-old boy, and injuring hundreds. According to some accounts the death toll was much higher and ran to over a hundred.
The Poznan protests were a major step towards the so-called Polish October of that year, which brought the weakening of hardline Stalinism in Poland and the installation of a less Soviet-dependent government.
In his letter, Duda said that the Poles' post-World War II hopes for a better life were soon quashed under the country's Soviet-dependent communist regime.
"In 1945, when the nightmare of warfare, crime, destruction, disease and hunger came to an end, European hearts filled with hope for the reconstruction of their homes and countries, for a return to peace, work and a life in dignity.
“These hopes, although accompanied by serious misgivings, were also shared by those who found themselves in the Soviet 'prison of nations'," the president wrote, observing that it only took a few years for hope to "go up in smoke."
Duda recounted that the 1956 events were the first of several freedom struggles in Poland, which ultimately led to the country's regaining of its independence in 1989.
"June 28 1956 was the first of several dates which mapped out our path to freedom, a path that led through 1968, 1970, 1976, 1980 and 1981, right up to the new chapter in Polish history which opened in June 1989 (the fall of the communist system - PAP)," Duda wrote.