25 years after the death of 19-year old Grzegorz Przemyk


Grzegorz Przemyk

Until today, we do not know why he died. Maybe it was the case of his mother being a member of the democratic opposition? Nineteen year old Grzegorz Przemyk, was severely beaten the communist militia 25 years ago and died two days later of the injuries. His death quickly became a rallying cause for Poles who hated the regime of General Wojciech Jaruzelski.

Agnieszka Bielawska reports

Grzegorz Przemyk was a just a normal teenager recall his friends: 'He had this kind of independence in him, he wore boots and they were so characteristic, he was not an outstanding person maybe behaved differently, but he was one of us. He was tall and wrote poems so maybe that made him different.'

25 years after his death a volume of his poems was released "On the day in which you come to me ..." Poems which are extremely mature, which show his talent and a sombre perception of the world. The poem 'On the day in which you come to me' was praised by Pope John Pau ll II says Wieslaw Budzynski literature expert: 'The Pope asked to check if really such a young person wrote such a mature poem. Przemyk as a 19-year-old writer showed maturity in his poems and observance of life.'

The volume also contains the poems of his mother Barbara Sadowska who died there years after her son. She was a very active member of the democratic opposition of the 1980's. Her son's death, which until today has not been explained is suspected of being a revenge of the communist authorities on the mother for her outright criticism of the communist rule.

The death of Grzegorz Przemyk was one of the most infamous crimes of the 1980 communist authorities. Grzegorz had gone with friends to a winery in Warsaw's Old Town to celebrate, following a school examination. When they came out, they were stopped by a militia patrol.

Przemyk was seized and severely beaten. An official statement later said he had been involved in a drunken brawl and had to be 'forcibly calmed' when the militiamen took him to a first-aid station. The boy died two days later. Underground leaders of Solidarity issued a statement calling Przemyk a victim of 'paid militia torturers.'

Historian professor Wojciech Roszkowski: 'He was brutally murdered by the militia as an act of intimidation of people who were against martial law. At that time, he was a sign of protest, a sign of communist brutality.'

His funeral was one of the largest gatherings since the imposition of martial law in December 1981. Some 60 thousand people thronged to the funeral services and joined the hour long procession to the cemetery. Mourners raised their fingers in the V sign that had become the symbol of Polish resistance to the authorities and the casket was covered with a Solidarity banner.

Foreign media correspondent Robert Strybel, who was in Warsaw at that time remembers the ceremony: ‘People were filing towards the mass and the street was lined both sides with tough looking men in their 30' and 40's wearing leather jackets. All of them had collapsible umbrellas, there was no reason for them but they had batons inside for subduing restless or unruly people.'

Police however kept discreetly out of sight during the funeral. Professor Wojciech Roszkowski recalls what the death of Grzegorz Przemyk and his funeral mass meant to Polish people, who in paying tribute to the young boy manifested their opposition to the martial law: 'We had a number of such occasions when society stood up and spoke, showing the wide scale of the opposition to the junta. This was another opportunity to show that we stand up united against the regime. Poland was not the Soviet Union, a funeral mass could not be prohibited and a funeral of a person such a Przemyk immediately gathered thousands of people. So the police was in a way helpless to prevent such a mass manifestation.'

The perpetrators of the killing are still free. The 1984 trial staged by the communist authorities sentenced two paramedics but the verdict was lifted in 1989. The Institute of National Remembrance continues to search for proof of guilt of the two militia officers: 'The proofs, documentation and testimonies of major perpetrators and witnesses had been so distorted in the 1980's that it is difficult to reconstruct the legal background of the accusations. It is 25 years, proofs were distorted, not guilty people found guilty of the murder and those responsible were not held responsible. Everybody knows what happened but we need hard core evidence.'