President marks 50th anniversary of ‘December 70’

Polish President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath at the monument to victims of “December 1970” in Gdynia, northern Poland on the 50th anniversary of those events.

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“Exactly 50 years ago, in the place where we stand today, the workers of the shipyard were going to work. Here, at the Gdynia Shipyard railway station they were awaited by tanks, armed people, soldiers, police... who unexpectedly opened fire. This is one of the most symbolic moments of the communist reign after 1945,” the president said.

“Of course, we cannot forget about the events from 1956 in Poznań, when the citizens of the city clashed on the streets with the communist security services and the army,” he added.

In the opinion of President Duda, the events from 1970 were exceptional, because “people were just going to work.”

“Those people, workers, the shipyard’s employees did not participate in any kind of manifestation, they did not want to oppose anything. They just came to do their job, to earn a living for their families,” the President said.

“From the blood spilt in December 1970 and then December 1981, free Poland emerged in 1989, which we have until now,” he emphasised.

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“I am grateful to all those who 50 years ago walked down this street, who protested, risked and suffered for the possibility that my daughter was born in a free country because it is their merit. Hail and glory to the heroes, eternal remembrance to those that died,” the President concluded.

Apart from the President, the Mayor of Gdynia Wojciech Szczurek, representatives of the Solidarity trade union, the Institute of the National Remembrance, local authorities and MPs also took part in the commemoration ceremony.

In December 1970, a bloody confrontation between the protesting workers and the authorities of the Polish People's Republic took place on the streets of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg, northern Poland. The communist government used militia and army troops to suppress the protests. The direct cause of the outbreak of social discontent and strikes at the Gdańsk and Gdynia Shipyard was an increase in the prices of food, most notably, meat.

On the website devoted to December 1970, the Institute of National Remembrance wrote that, according to official data, a total of 45 people were killed and 1,165 injured. In the context of the violence used at the time, however, many believe that more people lost their lives than was reported.