40 years ago started one of the worst moments of Poland and Warsaw, the Martial law. From December 13thn 1981 to July 22nd, 1983, the authoritarian communist government of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL) restricted drastically the everyday life of Poles by introducing martial law. The aim of this decision was to stop any political opposition.
Thousands of people were jailed without charge, including the future President of Poland, Lech Wałęsa. More than 90 people were killed during this period. The Martial Law was stopped in 1983 but many people were released only 3 years later, in 1986.
On December 13, 1981, at 6h Wojciech Jaruzelski, General of the Army declared the Martial Law. He finished his declaration with those words: “Before all the Polish people and the whole world, I would like to repeat those immortal words: Poland has not yet perished, so long as we still live!”.
Directly after the TV intervention, thousands of soldiers with military vehicles appeared on the streets of every major city of Poland (About 80,000 soldiers, 30,000 policemen, 1,750 tanks, 1,900 combat vehicles, 9,000 cars). A curfew was imposed (from 22h to 6h), the national borders and airports were closed, and roads connecting the main cities were restricted. Then, telephone lines were disconnected, all mails controlled, all independent official organizations banned, all non-official press banned, schools and universities suspended, and certain offenses subject to death penalty.
December 17th, 1981, is a dark day, 7 people were killed and media all around the world talked about those events, Radio France Internationale begins daily Polish-language news broadcasts. Ronald Reagan stated that it was impossible to continue to provide economic help to Poland under those conditions.
Many professions were managed and controlled by the army, among them, the mass media, the public services, healthcare services, power stations, coal mines, seaports, railway stations, and many more… The consequences of the Martial law were important, the economy was massively impacted with a major increase of all consumer goods (+20% in a record time).
Almost 1 million people left Poland for Western Europe following these events. In 1992, the Sejm (Parliament) declared the 1981 imposition of martial law as unlawful and unconstitutional.