Gdansk – 10

Another shocking event which placed the authorities in a bad light, was the murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko a staunch anti-Communist Catholic priest. After completing his secondary education, Jerzy Popieluszko attended a seminary in Warsaw. He served his army duties in a special force designed to dissuade young men from becoming priests. This had no effect on Popiełuszko, as,he continued his studies after leaving the army. In 1981, Jerzy Popiełuszko took part in demonstrations with strikers in the Warsaw Steelworks. His sermons included spiritual exhortations and political messages, criticizing the Communist system and motivating people to protest.

During martial law Catholic Churches were the only places where protests could be voiced openly. Popiełuszko’s sermons were routinely broadcast by Radio Free Europe, and became famous throughout Poland for their uncompromising stance against the regime. The Służba Bezpieczeństwa, or Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, tried to silence or intimidate him. When this didn’t work, they fabricated evidence against him; he was arrested in 1983, but soon released on intervention of the clergy and pardoned by an amnesty.

Jerzy Popiełuszko avoided a car accident planned for him on 13th October 1984 but the authorities had other plans. One of these was carried out on 19th October 1984. The priest was beaten by three Security Police officers: Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pękala, and Waldemar Chmielewski. He was tied up and put in the boot of a car. The officers bound a stone to his feet and dropped him into the Vistula Reservoir. Subsequent investigations found he was conscious when dropped into the water. He’d been bound in such a way that the more he struggled the more a noose around his neck tightened.

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