Thousands of opposition activists were interned without charge and as many as 100 people were killed. Although martial law was lifted in 1983, many of the political prisoners were not released until the general amnesty in 1986.
Pro-democracy movements such as Solidarity and other, smaller organisations were banned and their leaders, including Lech Wałęsa, detained overnight.
In the morning, thousands of soldiers in military vehicles patrolled streets of every major city. A curfew was imposed, the national borders were sealed, airports were closed, and road access to main cities was restricted. Telephone lines were disconnected, mail was subject to postal censorship, all independent organizations were delegalized, and classes in schools and at universities were suspended.
During the initial imposition of martial law, several dozen people were killed. Commanders during the crackdown claim about a dozen fatalities, while a Polish parliamentary commission in the years 1989-1991 arrived at a figure of over 90 deaths.
In the deadliest incident, nine people were killed by ZOMO paramilitary police whilst breaking a strike action in Wujek Coal Mine on December 16, 1981. People were also killed and wounded during a massive wave of demonstrations which took place on August 31, 1982.
A six-day working week was re-imposed and the mass media, public administration, health services, power stations, coal mines, sea ports, train stations, and most of the key factories were placed under military management (the employees had to follow military orders or face a court martial).
As part of the crackdown, media and educational institutions underwent “verification”, a process that tested each employee’s attitude towards the regime and to the Solidarity movement; in the result, thousands of journalists and teachers were banned from exercising their profession.
Military courts were established to bypass the normal court system, and e.g. imprison those spreading so-called “false information”. In attempt to prevent resistance, civilian phone conversations were regularly monitored by appointed operators.
The Poles actively resisted the Martial Law by organizing strikes and street marches, but any resistance to the Martial Law was brutally crushed. The Poles continued to oppose the WRON (Military Council of National Salvation – Wojskowa Rada Ocalenia Narodowego, WRON) – many Solidarity members worked underground. They established, the so called, Revolutionary Solidarity and were involved in publishing independent newspapers, organization of street protests, broadcasting radio programs usually cut off by the government jammers). Thousands were arrested and prosecuted.
Martial Law was suspended on December 31, 1982 and terminated on July 22, 1983. Some of the restrictive legislation introduced during the martial law remained in force through the end of the eighties. The failure of the WRON and the ruling Communist Party became clear in 1989 when the Solidarity won by a land-slide in the first free election after World War II.
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)