Eugenia R. Dabertowa

Celebrations of the Poznań June 1956 anniversaries in Poznań

Wyboje, a magazine of the young Poznań intelligentsia, established in the wake of the October thaw, had been the first to demand a public commemoration of the Poznań uprising of June 1956. They put forward a proposal to erect a monument to honour the 1939 struggle of Wielkopolska residents, victims off the Nazi occupation, as well as the ,”desperate and tragic uprising of the Poznań working class on June 28” (Wyboje 1956, issue no. 5). These events were not commemorated at that time, because the authorities strived to cover up all traces of the workers’ revolt and launched a process of making the 1956 uprising fall from public memory. During commemorations of the first anniversary of the events (1957), Władysław Gomułka attempted to draw a ‘curtain of silence’ over the Poznań June in his official speech.
The public cherished the memory of June however, even if in a fragmentary, rather symbolic form. Families would keep memorabilia of the departed: clothes with gunshot holes, bullets taken out from their bodies, trinkets stained with blood or photos. A few people, like Aleksander Ziemkowski, Ph.D. (link do biogramu i fotki) tried “to give a testimony of the truth”: they collected personal stories from participants, browsed through parish archives and hospital and cemetery files to identify a list of casualties. In the 1970s, the memory of victims was honoured in a more courageous manner. Their graves were visited by some oppositionists and anniversary services were ordered in churches. As Stanisław Barańczak recalled (S. Barańczak, Cztery Czerwce, ,,Środowisko” 7/1981), they used to be attended by twenty to thirty people,. In June 1980, after a service at the church on Grunwaldzka Street, the oppositionists went as a group of ten to the Junikowo cemetery to Romek Strzałkowski’s grave. Also at that time a tribute to their memory was paid by those who flocked in large numbers to a service at the Church of Barefoot Carmelites; according to the recollections of Lech Dymarski (K. Chwaliszewski (ps.), Rocznice, ,,Obserwator Wielkopolski” 82/1984), it attracted 200 people. The service participants then attempted to march together to the Citadel, where the June heroes were buried among others. Order-keeping forces were mobilised to stop them.
It was not until the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union (NSZZ) “Solidarity” was established that the memory of the Poznań uprising could be honoured publicly. One of the very first initiatives taken by members of the independent trade union that was being formed in Poznań was to erect a monument in memory of events from 25 years ago. It had been mentioned during the August strike at MPK, but an official proposal was made by Roman Schefke, Ph.D. from the University of Agriculture in Poznań, at a meeting of the Inter-company Founding Committee of NSZZ “Solidarity” in the Chamber of Crafts on September 10th , 1980. Soon, a Voluntary Founding Committee of Poznań uprising of June 1956 Monument was established, headed by writer Roman Brandstaetter. The shape of the monument was forced through by the Poznań community after it had rejected the design that won the competition. They wanted it to be a clear and obvious symbol of the Polish struggle for freedom. Designed by Adam Graczyk and Włodzimierz Wojciechowski, the monument was constructed by Poznań workers (mainly from the H. Cegielski Metal Works) and erected under the support of city residents. It had been funded from voluntary contributions, and its unveiling ceremony on June 28th, 1981 turned into a national event, attended by about 200,000 people from all over Poland. The anniversary celebrations included installing commemorative plaques in locations of particular importance for the Poznań events. Moreover, the first monograph, Poznański Czerwiec 1956, edited by Jarosław Maciejewski and Zofia Trojanowiczowa, was published.
The monument was supposed to ensure that ‘never again a Pole will shoot at another Pole’; it was a challenge and a call for freedom. That is why it became a meeting place for those who protested the introduction of martial law on December 13th, 1981. The monument went on to become a symbol of both remembrance and resistance, and the area around it a territory of free Poles. Here they protested through chanting “antisocialist” slogans, singing patriotic songs, prayers, lighting candles or laying flowers. The authorities then ‘interned’ the monument and denied access to it by surrounding it with vehicles and patrols that would check IDs and detain those who approached it. Yet despite this, Poznanians kept meeting here in marches organised by the opposition every year, despite often being persecuted afterwards. The underground press would write about the 1956 Poznań uprising; it was recalled on posters, postcards, leaflets, copied poems, commemorative stamps and lectures in churches, illegal exhibitions and celebrations. An intensive awareness campaign about the Poznań uprising, prepared by the Solidarity underground, accompanied the 30th anniversary of these events. Over an entire month in 1986, there were lectures in seventeen churches in Poznań; five informative and artistic exhibitions were opened (including one nationwide); the Easter Triduum (religious services, lectures, poetry evenings) at the Dominicans was attended by lecturers and artists, not only local parishioner. On the day of the anniversary, the main celebrations were held in Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Łazarz, attended by delegations from all over Poland. The religious service was preceded by an programme that comprised literary and documentary texts about June 1956, and after the service a special programme was presented by members of Teatr Ósmego Dnia (Theatre of the Eighth Day).