On September 14, 1947, in a small village in the East of Poland called Okopy, Jerzy Popieluszko was born. Two years before his birth, Poland had become communist after the Red Army had freed his country from the Nazi's. The Polish communist party had set all its hopes to Popieluszko's generation, which had not been poisoned by pre-war capitalism. This generation would be raised as the true Polish communist people that would make Poland a successful country.
They did not know at the time that Jerzy Popieluszko would turn out to be a fanatic critic of the communist system instead of a supporter. His fanaticism would even result in his death.
On the age of 25, Popieluszko decided to become a priest
. After working in many different parishes
for eight years, he took residence in St. Stanislaw Kostka in 1980
. In that year food price raises caused unrest among Polish working class men. Strikes
such as the Gdansk
strike lead by Lech Walesa
, put the communist regime under great pressure. To satisfy the people, 21 of their demands were complied with. Within two months, the enormous, ten-million-strong Solidarity
trade union (Solidarnosc
) came into being. It was a union
and, at the same time, a reform and independence-oriented social movement, resorting to peaceful methods only. The Catholic Church
, the lower clergy
in particular, were committed to the Solidarnosc
movement. Like in Gdansk, the steel factory workers of Nowa Hut near Warsaw
laid down their tools. Because their conditions were bad, a priest was sent to guide them through the crisis. This priest was called Jerzy Popieluszko.
The communist hard-liners (stimulated by the Soviet Union
) managed to get hold of the situation and ordered to arrest all Solidarnosc
leaders. Lech Walesa was one of the people sent to the prison camps. Solidarnosc
became an illegal
movement. But Popieluszko continued his religious work as Solidarnosc
supporter. From February 1982, he started 'monthly services for the mother country', in which he criticized the communist regime, for instance of violating human rights
. His services were attended by thousands of people and tape recordings were spread over the country.
Enemy of the state
From this moment on he was an enemy of the state
and his name appeared on the list of the Secret Service
. Damage was done to his house, he was accused of abusing religion for his own political purposes, he was threatened and his reputation was blackened
in the propaganda press.
After two years of harassment
by the Secret Service, on October 20, 1984, Jerzy Popieluszko was abducted
. A few days later, his tortured body was found in a lake. Over 400.000 attained the funeral
, which was the largest gathering of Polish people since Pope John Paul II
's visit to Poland.
The precise reasons for the murder are still unclear. It is not very probable that head of state Wojciech Jaruzelski gave the orders, although he was the centre of Popieluszko's accusations. He could have silenced the priest quite easily by putting him behind bars, thus avoiding any discrediting rumours. Analysts think it's more likely that hard-line Polish communists (especially those in the Secret Service) killed Popieluszko. They were opposing Jaruzelski's normalization politics. By killing an immensely popular priest, they could put the general in a very awkward position, which could free the way for a more rigorous politician.
Eventually Jaruzelski decided to arrest four members of the Secret Service. They were put to trial
and sentenced to a long time in jail. A trail against members of the Secret Service in a communist country seemed (and in fact was) quite a miracle. On the other hand the trial was clearly a Jaruzelski show-off
to the people and to his political opponents.