December 13th 1981

Martial law was imposed in Poland. A shock to the world. The above photo is taken from the exhibition which opened yesterday to commemorate the event

I was going to go, but raging toothache stopped me from doing anything at all. Eventually in despair after seeing my own dentist who suggested I see someone else for root canal work – no one had a space for me – I rang some friends who were all very helpful- and then, minor miracle – or even major, considering the pain – I was directed to a dentist who practises near me, who promised to sort out the pain if not the tooth entirely. Last night I slept for the full eight hours. Bliss.

I can’t say the pain has gone entirely but it is certainly bearable. My face is still swollen, I look like a lopsided hamster, but I can function. Still not sure about eating, though.

But the whole episode made me think about how I would have coped under martial law. Curfews, shortages, arrests, 48 hour imprisonments. Death sentences.

Forty years ago we had staying with us friends from Poland who realised they could no go back. All they had was the stuff they had brought with them for their holiday. They made the decision to emigrate to Canada. I remember them saying that the queues of Poles like them were enormous but that the Canadians were extremely helpful.

Martial law lasted for almost two years. At the time everything was deeply censored. Post, phone calls especially. But Solidarity operated its own rules. Officially opened letters for example, if the employee was a member of the organisation, would sometimes have an indication that the censor’s heart wasn’t in it.

The best moment was when we tried to phone my father in law. We were trying to make arrangements for him to come over and when we rang his number the operator asked us who we were calling. Oh no, she said, I cannot put you through. But tell me what it’s about. She wasn’t being nosey. That evening she rang my father in law privately from her home number and passed on all the details.

Now that’s Solidarność!

4 comments on “December 13th 1981

  1. Great anecdotes Basia. Danusia wrote yesterday how the imposition of martial law fundamentally changed the direction of her life (and indirectly mine). My first experience of Poland came a few months after the ending of Martial Law, at Easter 1984, my first trip to Poland. It was a wonderful trip, and Danusia’s dad drove us all over the country to experience some of the highlights of Poland, as well as to meet her extended family. One particular incident I recall though; we were still in Poland on 1st May 1984, in Warsaw, and I was very keen to witness a communist mayday parade. We arrived in the centre of town rather late, with the parade already in full swing. A cordon sanitaire had been set up around the event, with a few streets guarded at either end by the infamous “Zomo” security police. As we entered the cordon (I forget exactly where now) we found it deserted. I could hear General Jaruzelski’s speech being piped over loudspeakers that were strung up on buildings, but at that time understood none of it. Then we turned a corner to approach the entrance to the inner cordon, to find the General’s voice being drowned out by a ghetto blaster playing Motorhead. A group of young Zomo recruits sitting astride a water-cannon, clearly not interested in what their leader had to say!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Stuart. ti was a horrific time for many people. some years previously I was in Warsaw when Ceaucescu came for an official visit. Buses and trams were being diverted from their routes, or just stopping as near to the square as possible and passengers were instructed to get off and wave! i walked home.


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