Katarzyna Florczyk

 

Poznań June 1956 through the records  of Radio Merkury S.A.

– Regional Broadcasting Station of Polish Radio in Poznań[1]

 

When researching one of the key events in the post-war history of Poland that took place on the streets of Poznań in June 1956 one should remember about an incredibly valuable record collection kept in the archive of Radio Merkury S.A. in Poznań. These records can be divided into four categories according to the time and place they were made.

The first category includes speeches recorded directly after the workers’ uprising. What should be emphasised is that radio had a great impact on the public at the time and was very popular in the 1950s. This is why the authorities used it for propaganda purposes. The best example of such use is the well-known address delivered the day following the workers’ revolt, on June 29, from a studio of the Poznań Broadcasting Station by Józef Cyrankiewicz, the then Prime Minister, in which he threatened that provocateurs would have their hand chopped off if they raised it against the people’s government. From the same place, Jerzy Janicki, a Warsaw-based correspondent of Polish Radio, reported the outcome and presented an events’ assessment of the events on June 30 and July 1, 1956. In line with the prescribed interpretation, he was convincing radio listeners all over Poland that enemy agents were responsible for what had happened in the capital city of Wielkopolska. He also emphasised that only two days after the Thursday events much-cherished peace had already been restored and life had returned to normal.

What is especially valuable is the collection of 104 hours of records from the Poznań trials held in the Provincial Court in Poznań from September 27 to October 22, 1956. Communists strived to present the defendants as  hooligans who had rioted against the regime with weapons in their hands. Famous speeches of the lawyers Stanisław Hejmowski and Michał Grzegorzewicz deserve particular attention among the hearings recorded every day. Such important records luckily survived until 1980s in boxes labelled as folk music.

The period following the conclusion of the Gdańsk Agreement marked the beginning of what is known as the carnival of solidarity. The sixteen months preceding the declaration of martial law were the time of greatest freedom of speech in PRL. During that period, a series of radio programmes about June 1956 was made by Merkury radio, with guests invited to the studio such participants in the uprsing, their defence attorneys at trials and historians (including a documentary radio programme by Piotr Frydryszek, entitled Poznań June`56: Inside stories and comments, broadcast on Programme I of Polish Radio). The high level of interest in this topic resulted from hedge festive celebrations of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Poznań June 1956 uprising.

On the fortieth anniversary of the uprising, Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, Director of the Polish Section of Radio Free Europe, handed RFE’s records about the Poznań June 1956 uprising to Radio Merkury. Due to the Communists’ monopoly of the media market, broadcasts from Munich emerged as the only source of reliable information about the workers’ protest. Records were made directly after the events, in June and July 1956, and included accounts of eyewitnesses, such as Western foreigners returning from the Poznań Fair, interviews with Jan Pawłowski, a participant of the Poznań uprising who escaped to the West, and the response of American and British workers to the events in Poznań.



[1]Detailed information about the work of Radio Merkury can be found in a book published by Wydawnictwo Miejskie in 1997 at the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the broadcasting station and an article by Piotr Frydryszek, Zachowane w dźwięku, czyli Poznański Czerwiec`56 w archiwum Radia Merkury SA [in:] Kronika Miasta Poznania 2006/2.

 

Radio Free Europe - available only in Polish
Communist propaganda - available only in Polish
Radio dramas - available only in Polish
Trials - available only in Polish