Konspira: Solidarity Underground

Konspira: Solidarity Underground

by Maciej Lopinski, Mariusz Wilk, Marcin Moskit

Konspira bares the soul and mind of Solidarity not long before the movement's stunning emergence as Poland's political vanguard. Written while martial law still gripped the country, Konspira tells the inside story of this inspiring contemporary workers' movement. The authors taped, then consolidated, over a hundred hours of secret interviews. Their


Konspira bares the soul and mind of Solidarity not long before the movement's stunning emergence as Poland's political vanguard. Written while martial law still gripped the country, Konspira tells the inside story of this inspiring contemporary workers' movement. The authors taped, then consolidated, over a hundred hours of secret interviews. Their subjects were eight of the most prominent Solidarity union leaders, gone into hiding as the result of a nationwide police-military crackdown by the Polish government.

Solidarity activists were either locked up in internment camps or forced underground, where they coordinated a clandestine network to sustain their organization. This compelling account of a crucial episode in the history of the Solidarity movement is both intimate and representative of the growing opposition to entrenched Communist regimes in East-Central Europe.

This volume has benefited from the collegial support of The Wake Forest University Studium.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In the dark days of December 1981, Polish journalists (some listed here under pseudonyms) began to tape interviews with seven prominent activists to ``record'' Solidarity's efforts to evade the authorities while establishing an underground movement. Interviews continued until spring 1984. While the original 1500 pages of transcript have been edited extensively, the journalists have added only minimal comments and explanations (in italic type); dates on the comments would have clarified the progress and changing fortunes of the underground. Disagreements among the Solidarity members emerge clearly, but so does the depth of commitment to their ideals. This collection adds to perspectives of the same period expressed in Jan Mur's A Prisoner of Martial Law: Poland ( LJ 11/1/84) and Lech Walesa's Way of Hope ( LJ 1/88). Despite last year's legalization of Solidarity, specialized collections should consider for purchase this record of a more embattled time.-- Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York

Product Details

University of California Press
Publication date:
Society and Culture in East-Central Europe Series
Edition description:
(A Wake Forest University Studium Book) (A Centennial Book)
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.33(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


Solidarity Underground
By Maciej Lopinski Marcin Moskit Mariusz Wilk

University of California Press

Copyright © 1990 Maciej Lopinski, Marcin Moskit, and Mariusz Wilk
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-520-06131-4

Chapter One

The last session of the National Commission. Things are heating up. Attack by night. "Lech is also surrounded." Apparent strength and real weakness. Why Solidarity allowed itself to be taken by surprise. Zbigniew Bujak I.

At about 6 P.M. on December 12, 1981, the second day of the National Commission's meeting, someone proposed a rather peculiar motion: that anyone who wanted to leave early had to get official permission from the National Commission and that the entire meeting should vote on each such request. The motion was passed by a decisive majority. This might have indicated that people subconsciously felt the seriousness of the situation (it was vital that they remain there and discuss the issues because something important was going on), but it might also have indicated something else. The bastard who proposed that motion... I'd like to.... I don't remember who it was, but in retrospect, I think the Security Service must have been watching directly what was going on in the shipyard, because what happened there was crucial for their entire strategy during the early phase of martial law.

Many observers of the last session of the National Commission noticed that at the end of the second day's discussion, Lech Walesa suddenly stopped saying anything, that he sat there as though resigned, seemingly far away.

Lech was ready to make enormous compromises in order to preserve or save Solidarity. For this reason, every time the discussion became more radical, he looked at everyone with disapproval, even pity. He simply knew, or sensed, more than the others. In any case, it has to be admitted that outside observers, mostly those with experience in the Polish Peasant Party or Home Army, had warned us long before: you have to get yourselves prepared because they're going to attack you. As early as the end of 1980 we'd had wives of Security officers coming to regional headquarters and crying on my shoulder, saying, "They're preparing camps for forty or fifty thousand people, the authorities are prepared to shoot, you have to do something." But even after the Bydgoszcz provocation I was still convinced that somehow the dynamics of the situation would enable us to keep ahead of each stage of their preparations. I thought that if they really wanted to clamp down, they'd be unable to go further than charging us with overstepping the bounds of our statute.

That they could impose martial law never even occurred to me, particularly as none of our advisers had been able to say firmly whether or not this was possible. The only person I know who foresaw a military dictatorship was Wiktor Kulerski. But he kept fairly quiet about it because he didn't want-as he put it-to go around sowing defeatism. Nevertheless, as early as December 1980, he was stating firmly, "There's no question of any accord with the authorities." He was the only one who got it right. He was probably helped by his family background; his grandfather did time in a tsarist prison, his father in a Stalinist one. As an art historian, Wiktor himself had a broader historical view of many issues. He used to say that ever since he began to work in Solidarity he felt like a Jew who'd got on the wrong train-as was obvious from every station he went through-but despite that couldn't decide to get off because, after all, he was finally going.

At ten o'clock in the evening, Wiktor called me at the meeting to say that things seemed to be heating up-the telex lines had been cut and he'd heard strange things about troop movements. Then he passed the phone to the guy who was responsible in our region for collecting and analyzing all information concerning suspicious troop movements. And this guy... with whom I was afterward hopping mad... assured me, "Everything's OK, they're just normal fall maneuvers, there's nothing to worry about, you can carry on as usual." And this was just a few hours before...

The atmosphere of the Commission meeting was, in my opinion, a bit strange from the start; it was oppressive. The arguments in the corridors were different too. Usually we argued about every sentence, about every resolution, but this time the discussion focused on fundamental issues. On the one hand, there was Jacek Kuron's radical proposal for an interim government; on the other-the enormous caution of attorney Jan Olszewski. On the one hand, the blustering statements made by many people, and on the other-Lech looking pityingly at the whole situation.

The meeting finished at midnight, and ten minutes later there wasn't a soul left in the cloakroom. This probably came as a surprise to the other side. They must have been sure the meeting would continue the next day and that they'd therefore be able to round up everyone at their hotels. If they'd known right away that the meeting had ended, they would certainly have rounded us up in the shipyard as we were leaving. But they got the information too late.

As far as my plans went, I was going back to the hotel. But I was with Zbigniew Janas, who insisted on going home. Our wives were in close touch, so I told him, "Listen, if my Wacia finds out that you've gone home and I've stayed here, there'll be the most almighty row." But he wouldn't budge.

Aleksander Hall I.1

Most people decided to go back to their hotel and didn't pay much attention to the signals trickling in or to the warnings of Hall, who was wandering around the shipyard like Cassandra. Late that night he discovered that the police had been to his apartment and his remaining doubts evaporated. Something serious was underway, although how big and exactly what he couldn't yet predict. There was a lot of information floating around, but, at the time, how much of it was understood as far as those at the meeting were concerned? Today Hall can still see the scene in the conference room. Only two people understood what was going on: Jan Olszewski, who almost went pale with shock, and Antoni Macierewicz. And yet Hall talked to Walesa, Taylor, Wadolowski, Kuron... Kuron said something like, "So they're after Young Poland?" Afterward, Hart accompanied Karol Modzelewski to the gate and told him, "The police have been to my place, to Darek Kobzdej's too, but I don't think they're just looking for us, because why should they?" Modzelewski answered, "The most stupid thing now would be to allow ourselves to be locked up." Nevertheless, he got on their chartered bus and went back to the hotel.

Wadolowski, with whom Hall was friendly because of their work together on the Committee in Defense of Prisoners of Conscience, simply suggested that they go to his room at the Monopol Hotel, where Hall would be safe. Hall insisted that it would be better if Wadolowski went with him, but at this moment they somehow parted company... and drove off in the last two cars to leave the shipyard that night.

Bogdan Lis I.1

Some people seemed to sense that something was up and tried to take precautions. Lis left the shipyard with Andrzej Gwiazda, suggesting that they spend the night in a "safe" apartment. Gwiazda considered the proposal but finally decided against it, saying, "I think I'll go to the station; I'm a bit tired." In the end, Lis abandoned the idea; he too was tired.

We said goodbye. I went along Jan z Kolna Street, then Robotnicza, and suddenly I was overtaken by two trucks full of ZOMO [motorized police]. Under my arm I was carrying a file with "Solidarity National Commission" written on it, and they turned and stopped about a hundred meters in front of me. I didn't know whether to make a run for it or not, but in the end I just kept going and nobody stopped me. I got home and went to bed more or less straightaway. A half hour later a couple of friends came round (I won't mention their names here), saying that I had to get out of the apartment because something was going on-the hotels were surrounded, Solidarity's regional headquarters too. I said, "Leave me in peace!" They left, but after a couple of minutes they came back, and in the end I decided to go with them.

Bujak I.2

By this time Bujak and Janas had bought train tickets and gone to the station bar for a coffee. Just after 2 A.M., when they were standing on the platform, they noticed that the ZOMO were stationed all around the Monopol. Surprised and curious they left the station to have a look; their first thought was that the ZOMO were rounding up black-marketeers. Suddenly Macierewicz appeared, and right away he suggested that they were probably after Solidarity. Bujak replied, "That's impossible. It's probably some kind of training exercise." Macierewicz nevertheless went off in a taxi to check whether the Grand Hotel in Sopot, where the other half of the National Commission was staying, had also been surrounded. Bujak and Janas didn't see him after that, but at the taxi stand they spotted another cab that had come from the direction of Sopot. The driver confirmed Macierewicz's suspicion, telling them that the Hevelius Hotel was also surrounded.

Then we thought to ourselves, hell, this might really be an attack on the union. But I was still hesitating. At about three o'clock, the ZOMO suddenly packed up and left. Then I said to Janas, "Let's go and see what they've been up to." The door to the hotel was locked, but we spotted Janusz Onyszkiewicz's assistant, who waved at us to go away fast. I told her, "Don't get excited; find someone who'll open the door, because we want to talk to you." We're going up the stairs, and she says, "They've taken Janusz." To which I reply, "Have they gone mad? Janusz Onyszkiewicz? But he's very well known. The whole region will go on strike immediately." We keep going, and she says that she saw them leading Wadolowski out of his room, in handcuffs. Well, when I hear that they've taken the first vice-chairman of Solidarity, I go a bit weak at the knees. I ask who else they've taken, and she starts crying and says they've arrested the entire presidium. She thinks only Szumiejko and Konarski got away. My God! We ask if there's anyone left in the hotel, and she says yes, the Security Service is checking all the rooms. After that we don't talk any longer but rush down the stairs to the door. It's locked again, and the concierge, who was there a minute ago, has disappeared. I started figuring out which pane of glass to break, but luckily it wasn't necessary.

We leaped outside. A car from the Gdansk Regional Board approached us out of the shadows, and one of the Gdansk employees (whom I knew by sight) asked me what was going on. I told her, "They've arrested the whole presidium, but what's happening in Gdansk apart from this?" She said, "They've surrounded and occupied the Regional Board office, they're arresting people at the Solidarity press agency, Lech [Walesa] too is surrounded and there's no way of contacting him." To which I replied, "Hell, it's finally a showdown with the union." Janas and I gave her our briefcases, so they wouldn't get in the way, and decided each of us would try to hide out on our own and then get to Warsaw. But before that, we decided to meet once more in Gdansk-by the altar in the Maria Basilica at two o'clock. Up till then we had absolutely no information about the situation in other parts of the country.

Eugeniusz Szumiejko I.1

Friday and Saturday (December 11-12) Szumiejko was on the road virtually the whole time. On Friday he flew to Warsaw and attended the Congress of Polish Culture. On Saturday he returned to Gdansk, intending to go back to Warsaw on Sunday-with Lech Walesa and Jan Waszkiewicz.

After the meeting of the National Commission had finished, around 12:30 at night, I went with Waszkiewicz to the Monopol Hotel to get a bit of sleep. Lech had already given up the idea of traveling to Warsaw. We woke up at 4:30. Downstairs in the lobby everything was deathly quiet; people looked at us a bit strangely. Waszkiewicz and I got in the car and set off for Warsaw. On the way we had to get some gas, so we stopped at a gas station, but the attendants there said they were closing up and, anyway, where did we think we were going now that they'd locked up Walesa? I made a comment to Waszkiewicz to the effect that people were so keen for something to happen finally that... they made up stories about how "they've locked up Lech." Without gas we couldn't get to Warsaw, so we made it as far as Tczew so we could catch a train. The train had already left, though, so Waszkiewicz said, "Well, let's get a little sleep at last; so little sleep for weeks on end is madness." We had a radio in the car. The clock struck six, and suddenly there was Jaruzelski speaking, with the national anthem playing. We made a quick decision: let's go back and see if anyone's left at the hotel and then-to the shipyard!

Bogdan Borusewicz I.1

On the evening of December 12, while the National Commission was in session, there was a meeting of a faction that had earlier decided to meet every so often in order to discuss and assess the situation, to see what might still be done for the union. The meeting took place outside the shipyard, in a private apartment, and none of the members of the faction-friends and acquaintances of Bogdan Borusewicz-was any longer in the Gdansk Solidarity leadership, with the exception of Lech Kaczynski. They had all resigned about a month before the imposition of martial law. Bogdan himself simply couldn't carry on any longer...

I don't have an unambiguous attitude toward Solidarity. On the one hand, I realize that this was a movement of supreme importance for Poland (and not only for Poland), something that our fathers and elder brothers had been waiting for since the war. On the other hand, it was a period of unbelievably hard work for me, several months without any private life whatsoever. Although I'd been active in the opposition previously, I'd always had enough time to do this and that, to go to the movies, to chat with friends.

It's hard even to imagine what went on in the Gdank Inter-Factory Strike Committee, at least at the beginning. I'd get home at night, eat something, fall into bed, and the next morning it was back to the grindstone. But this wasn't the main reason-this wasn't why I came to the conclusion that there was no point in battling on any longer. I simply began to see how people were changing, how ambition and position were going to the heads of people who used to be good friends, how colleagues who used to be unpretentious and cooperative with each other were turning into bosses who destroyed their opponents. Suddenly I realized that success by no means necessarily changes people for the better, that the social and national success of this movement was no longer my success. I felt worse and worse, but perhaps I was just being oversensitive.

Unfortunately, there was something more.


Excerpted from Konspira by Maciej Lopinski Marcin Moskit Mariusz Wilk Copyright © 1990 by Maciej Lopinski, Marcin Moskit, and Mariusz Wilk. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Maciej Lopinski, Marcin Moskit, and Mariusz Wilk are all Polish journalists, active in the city of Gdansk. Lopinski was arrested in December1982, together with Mariusz Wilk, on suspicion of "activity in a secret structure of the Solidarity trade union." Today Lopinski is editor in chief of the new Gdansk Weekly. Moskit, who wrote under a pseudonym, is now known to be Zbigniew Gach. He is a reporter for the Gdansk Weekly. Wilk was released from prison just before the amnesty of July 1983, and subsequently became involved in the "Movement of New Entrepreneurship" in Gdansk.

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