The 40th anniversary of signing the Rzeszow-Ustrzyckie agreements

PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

The 40th anniversary of signing the Rzeszow-Ustrzyckie agreements "reminds of one of the most important events in the whole peaceful revolution “+Solidarity +" - wrote the President Andrzej Duda in a letter to the participants of the celebrations.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki emphasised in his letter that he would "bow to the heroes who fought for our freedom and inalienable rights of our nation 40 years ago".

On February 19, 1981, in Rzeszów, an agreement was signed between the striking farmers and the authorities of the Polish People's Republic; a day later, a similar one was signed in Ustrzyki Dolne. According to historians, the Rzeszów-Ustrzyki agreements were the fourth and last - after Gdańsk, Szczecin and Jastrzębie Zdrój - social agreement concluded in 1980-81.

The president recalled that "farmers who, right after the war, successfully resisted collectivisation, and for the next decades were the mainstay of the national tradition 40 years ago," again stood up for civil rights and freedoms. The strikes forced the regime to make concessions. In fact, the authorities admitted that the Poles categorically rejected the order from Moscow". Activists of "Solidarity" and the countryside inhabitants had a huge and priceless role in it.” As he noted, he is "convinced that our national identity and culture, economy and security will always have a strong support in the rural community."

Celebrations of the 40th anniversary began with a Holy Mass in the Rzeszów Cathedral. The President and Prime Minister’s letters were read during the celebrations. Then the bouquets of flowers were placed under the plaque dedicated to the Rzeszów-Ustrzyki strikes on the building of the former Railwayman House, where the sit-in strike was taking place. Chairman of NSZZ RI "S" Teresa Hałas,the president of the Institute of National Remembrance and local authorities participated in the celebrations.

As a consequence of the strikes, farmers won guarantees of inviolability of peasant property together with the right to inheritance, equalising the rights of individual farmers with state and cooperative agriculture, lifting restrictions on trade in agricultural land.

The authorities of the Polish People's Republic (PRL) also agreed to the ideological postulates, which concerned freedom in religious buildings and access to religious practices in children's colonies, in prisons and the army. The strikers were also assured of increasing the circulation of the Catholic press. The agreements also mentioned the expansion of the network of schools and kindergartens and the reduction of alcohol sales in the countryside.

The strikes started on December 29, 1980, with the building of the Town and Commune Office in Ustrzyki Dolne in the Bieszczady Mountains being occupied. A few days later, farmers and representatives of the Rzeszów region of NSZZ Solidarność also took over the Railroad House, the former seat of the Provincial Council of Trade Unions in Rzeszów.

On January 12, 1981, the protesters in Ustrzyki Dolne were removed by force by the police. However, on January 15, the provincial commander of the Citizens' Militia in Rzeszów approved the plan to break the occupation strike in this city; it was codenamed "The Mole". The participants of the strike were to be transported to the prison in Załęże. It was assumed that 420 policemen would be needed to take control of the building. Ultimately, the operation was not performed.

The Rzeszow-Ustrzyki accords did not yet give individual farmers the right to form a trade union, and that was the main demand of the strikers. However, the formula of the agreement meant the announcement of recognition of the farmers' union. RI "Solidarity" was legalised in May 1981.

The farmers' protest was supported by Solidarity and the clergy of the Przemyśl diocese with its bishop at the time, Ignacy Tokarczuk.

The signatories of the agreement were the strike leaders, including Jan Kułaj and Józef Ślisz, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Andrzej Kacała, representatives of NSZZ "S" Lech Wałęsa, Bogdan Lis and the president of the Rzeszów region, Antoni Kopaczewski. The striking advisers included: prof. Andrzej Stelmachowski and prof. Valerian Pańko and then vice-president of "S" Andrzej Gwiazda.

The original copy of the Rzeszów-Ustrzyckie Agreements, which belonged to Rzeszów "S", in 2006 the trade unionists donated to the Jasna Góra Foundation Pro Patria Bastion św. Roch. Ultimately, NSZZ "Solidarity" of Individual Farmers was registered on May 12, 1981, thanks to the efforts of the then Polish Primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.