Mr. Prokop, 30. 5. 1987, ?

Questions to the narrator


Location ?
Date 30. 5. 1987
Length 17:19

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Could you tell us about the atmosphere of the 1950s, how you came to Nowa Huta?

When I came to Nowa Huta, the atmosphere was actually very enthusiastic, you know. Everyone was happy to work, all kinds of records were broken at construction sites. And a lot was written about this in the mass media, so…

And what brought you to Nowa Huta? Why did you come here?

I came to Nowa Huta because I had lived in Szczecin at the time. I came from there because my wife got too sick in Szczecin so in order to get here I had to— to me it was about getting an apartment, and it was possible to get an apartment the soonest in Nowa Huta. And that’s why I came here.

Because the conditions were good?

Yes, when it comes to an apartment. In general, the conditions actually weren’t good anywhere because you earned little, although the prices weren’t so high then. But in spite of that, the wages were poor. And then it was about an apartment to me and I actually received an apartment here very quickly, really.

How long were you enthusiastic about Nowa Huta? Were you an enthusiast for a long time?

I was an enthusiast for a short time, actually. And as for my attitude to the whole system, I never had a positive attitude because as soon as I came back from abroad, from captivity that is, I saw the injustice that was happening here, the utter hypocrisy.

But you did have co-workers who were enthusiastic about it?

Well, there were those who were enthusiastic about the communist system but—I mean, it was rare for everyone to have a positive attitude towards it.

Let’s move on to the matter of building a church in Nowa Huta. Could you briefly describe the incidents related to the attempts to build this church?

Well, the church was marked where the cross stands over there, that is, next to the housing estate — I forgot the name — and then the bulldozer came, the workers came to remove this cross.

Could you briefly tell us about these incidents at the cross?

Well, you can say it was the biggest demonstration in Nowa Huta to take place at the time. It was as if the whole city was taking part in it. They all took to the streets and even if they were no longer taking part in the march itself, they were all outside, no one stayed home.

If you could start over as we don’t really know what it was about—that question was interrupted. Could you say that it was about the cross, about the church?

Exactly, it was the biggest demonstration about the cross — the cross in the place where the church was to stand next to it. As this church was not allowed to be built there, they decided to build a Poland’s Millennium memorial school. And in the current system, the government did not want this cross there and they decided to remove it. Then they sent workers to get rid of the cross. A lot of women came and would not let it be removed. Then a lot of people started coming, men of course, because the police showed up. Not only that: they failed, more police were sent in from the entire region, maybe even from all over Poland, I don’t know, later on. And then the demonstrators were attacked. During all this, there was this fight against the police, with stones, with whatever the people had at hand, you know. Everyone was defending themselves. It lasted, you could say, for three days, this demonstration.

Was anyone injured, killed or arrested?

Right, some were wounded, some were killed — so I heard — only on the side of the police, not so much the people. Anyway, a lot of people were beaten up. And in the following days they arrested a lot people. They searched everywhere, wherever they found out about someone who had actively participated in it, they arrested and took them away — and arrested some of them for a number of years.

Maybe let’s go back to 1968. You talked about the fact that…

Right, the second such demonstration, in which I did not take part, of course, because it took place mainly in Kraków, it was a crackdown on students, you can say. Why did the students rebel? Mainly because the authorities removed a performance from the theatre…

You don’t need to explain that. I am more interested in the fact that the party took workers to suppress others and if you could point out that it would not be possible. Why did the party take the workers to suppress the student demonstrations and whether it would be possible today for the party to take advantage of the workers to—?

Exactly. Then — because I was on my own, I watched what was happening in my factory — that all those who were party members, and were additionally higher-ups, were handed, well, clubs made of rubber or something. Everything was prepared like that, such a hectic atmosphere back then. And they sent these people to Kraków against these students. From what I heard at the time, they battered the students in Kraków. So…

But the point is that, at that time, the authorities used — the party used the workers to beat up students. Would that be possible right now?

It wouldn’t be possible right now because, well, workers right now — the workers right now wouldn’t go for it. Firstly, now there is too much awareness in people and I don’t think they could use them like that now. Although they do use some individuals but it’s rather their own people, like in this demonstration we told you about, with the church, the Lord’s Ark, you know. Well, most likely they were policemen in plain clothes.

I would like you to tell us about how during martial law in Nowa Huta, reportedly, party members would leave the party and — you know which story I mean, about the little coffin?

Yes, yes. Right, it was during the Solidarity movement that a lot of workers gave up their party membership cards. There were such rumours. My daughter happened to work there and, of course, from her and other workers, you know, I heard that they were dumping them in droves and some of them made a little coffin and they put all those party membership cards into this coffin and buried like a dead man.

Buried the party— Skipping a bit, Nowa Huta was built with the assumption that it would be a socialist, atheist city.

That was the party’s assumption that the party would educate a city to be completely socialist, meaning that it would be educated without God according to Marxist ideology. Of course, it did not work because, as it turned out in the cross-related incidents, the whole city — almost the whole city was behind this cross, against communism.

Because they were in favour of building churches?

Right, they were in favour of building churches.

I would like to ask you why you participated in pro-Solidarity demonstrations during martial law?

Well, I participated because — because I knew that the principles of this system were against my views, that its principles were based on a lie, on duplicity and, to some extent one can say, on crime. Because, of course, while listening to foreign broadcasts, I learned many things that I would never have learned about in the regular Polish media.

Why did you support Solidarity?

I supported Solidarity because it actually fought for the truth, for human rights, for civil rights and, in general, for justice. And for the complete freedom of the nation.

And you took a beating more than once during such demonstrations?

Well, as for that — I took a beating once. It was in the fight for the cross, when it was about the construction of the first church and I got hit on the head with a truncheon. It was only one such incident.

Why did people come here, to Nowa Huta?

Well, first of all to get an apartment. In general, people in Poland did not do well and the housing situation was, you could say, very bad. Secondly, many people, mainly from the countryside, were unemployed. And that’s why, in order to earn some extra money, they would come to Nowa Huta to find employment here. This was the main goal. Besides, there was still the possibility of finishing some school in those early years. And that’s why people would come here to Nowa Huta.

And why were there such slogans and ideas here, too? Did you believe in these slogans and ideas or did you perhaps have information from the other side?

Well, there were all kinds of slogans but I did not believe in them. Because, in any case, I was so aware, you know, that immediately after my arrival in Nowa Huta and even in Poland, when I returned from abroad, I was aware that this was not my system—it was a foreign system that was not chosen by the people but downright imposed by the nomenclature or, in other words, brought in on tanks from the East. And that’s why people were aware, a large part of them had the same awareness and that’s why they didn’t have trust, you know. Over time, people trusted less and less in the system.

There once was such an ideal of a modern man here.

A new man.

That’s right. What happened to it?

Well, it didn’t come to pass rather because people already had many examples so they didn’t follow the system but followed the truth instead, followed the Church that proclaimed this truth. So all that didn’t work out because everyone was aware that the system was based on lies, on duplicity. Although some workers were dedicated to some extent. But it happens that way everywhere, you know, in every country.

Do you have the same historical experience, maybe from 1960?

1960? By 1960 you mean 1968? It was—it was when the students were beaten up in Kraków. It was then that it put me off all the more because the system even organised the workers to fight the students. Of course, not everyone, only party members. Every one of them was given a club and told to go out there and beat up those students in Kraków who stood up for their rights, and not only for their rights but also for the entire nation’s. It was then that I got very disaffected with the system.

You took part in the fight for the cross here yourself. Could you describe it graphically?

I came back from work and saw that the whole of Nowa Huta here was a single crowd, a single movement, you know. And I went everywhere, to the cross like that, in order to defend this cross together with the others. Like others, I was hit over the head with a club. It was a very interesting spectacle. Everywhere, all over, the fight against the police. They brought the police in from out of town, there was a whole lot of them, vans and all. It was then that I took an active part.

Mr. Prokop (?)

Mr. Prokop