The Bydgoszcz Provocation

The Bydgoszcz Provocation

On March the 19th, 1981, during the VIth Session of the Voivodeship National Council in Bydgoszcz, the invited members of the “Solidarity” trade union (representing farmers) were not allowed to speak, and the national police (Citizens’ Militia, usually abbreviated to MO) removed them forcibly from the building, beating Jan Rulewski (chairman of the NSZZ Solidarność Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee in Bydgoszcz), Mariusz Łabentowicz and Michał Bartoszcze[i]. This incident, known as the Bydgoszcz Provocation, and the violent reaction of the police, has developed into a major conflict between the “Solidarity” trade union and the communist regime. It was widely condemned and it brought numerous calls to punish those responsible for the situation [ii].

Below there is a selection of documents on the Bydgoszcz Provocation kept in the collection of the “Solidarity” Bydgoszcz Region, to be found in the Archives of the National Commission of NSZZ „Solidarność” in Gdansk.

The vast majority of this documentation are expressions of solidarity and support for the vixctims of the attacks in Bydgoszcz – about 100 open letters, protests, resolutions, announcements coming from various sources (like enterprise committees of the Solidarity trade union and of the Polish United Workers’ Party University Committee, national health service and the Ministry of Justice employees, university circles, journalists, writers, shipyard and other workers, the youth). The response to the ebents in Bydgoszcz were addressed to various institutions and government officials in the Polish People’s Republic. Among the addressees one can find Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski, Deputy Prime Minister Mieczysław Rakowski, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Stanislaw Kania, as well as the Sejm on the Polish People’s Republic, the Public Prosecutor General, the Polish United Workers’ Party Voivodeship Committees in Torun and Bydgoszcz, Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee of NSZZ “Solidarność” in Torun and Bydgoszcz, the press, radio, television.

The documentation begins with the open letter dated March the 20th, 1981, signed by the Polish United Workers’ Party Committee at the United Voivodeship Hospital, XXX Anniversary of the Polish People’s Republic Hospital, II Medical Department of the Medical Academy of Gdansk Branch in Bydgoszcz and the delegates of the Health Service Conference and addressed to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party. The signatories condemn the behaviour of the police and demand urgent identification and punishment of people responsible for the violent action. On the same day the “Solidarity” Committee at the Bydgoszcz Cold Store (where one of the victims, Mariusz Łabentowicz, was employed) and the “Solidarity” Committee of the Ministry of Justice Staff in Bydgoszcz published a letter addressed to Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski, in which they demanded to punish those guilty of the savage beating.

Furthermore, there is a resolution of the Polish United Workers’ Party University Committee at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and of the University Election Conference of the Delegates to the Municipal Conference on the Bydgoszcz Provocation, dated March the 20th, 1981. It was sent to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Stanislaw Kania, Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski, Marshal of the Sejm on the Polish People’s Republic, Stanisław Guzwa, as well as university committees all over Poland, Torun region delegates, the press, radio, and television, et al.

The Parliament is the addressee of the open letter sent by the Solidarity Trade Union Committee at the TELEKOM – ZWUT company, dated March the 20th, 1981. It requested that a special Parliamentary committee be established to examine the Bydgoszcz Provocation. The same day a state-owned company “Torun Sugar Refineries” issued a resolution on the event, meant for the Public Prosecutor General (with carbon copies to many other institutions).

Journalists from Pomerania and Kuyavia regions addressed their announcement to Deputy Prime Minister Mieczysław Rakowski, Press Department of the Polish United Workers’ Party Central Committee, Regional and Municipal Committees of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Bydgoszcz, the General Board of the Association of Polish Journalists, headquarters of the Polish Press Agency et al. The Bydgoszcz Department of the Polish Writers’ Union, in turn, sent its resolution to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Stanislaw Kania, and to Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski.

Worth seeing is the announcement made by the Board of the Polish Socialist Youth Union of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, dated March the 23rd, 1981. Even they call the Bydgoszcz Provocation “a brutal intervention of the Citizens’ Militia and the Security Service, violating basic human dignity”.

Visit us at the in the Archives of the National Commission of NSZZ „Solidarność”.

Those interested in the above described documents and in our other archival materials are kindly invited to make use of our holdings in our Reading Room of the Archives of the National Commission of NSZZ „Solidarność” at Wały Piastowskie 24. They are accessible from Monday to Friday between 9:00 and 15:30. Please let us know in advance about your planned visit either by phone +48 (58) 308-43-92, +48 (58) 308-44-20, +48 (58) 308-43-83 or at .

/Iwona Flis, Stanisław Flis Foundation “Pomerania Archives”,
document selection – Łukasz Grochowski and Kamil Kaliszuk, Archives of the National Commission of NSZZ „Solidarność”/

[i] NSZZ „Solidarność”: 1980-2010 Kalendarium Związku, comppiled and edited by J. Kłosiński, Gdańsk 2010.

[ii] NSZZ „Solidarność” 1980–1989, volume 2: Ruch społeczny, edit. by Ł. Kamiński and G. Waligóra, Warszawa 2010.