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Black Thursday – Antoni Krauze
The film has been in the making for over 40 years – as a proper commemoration of the tragedy which shook Poland in late 1970 and caused a large crack in the institution of the communist government
Antoni Krauze’s film feels like a documentary, with black-and-white, simple images tell the story of what happened in those emotional days. The story follows the Drywa family. The year 1970 was supposed to be a breakthrough for them, after years of trying to make ends meet: they moved to Gdynia, to a co-operative housing.
On December 12, 1970, just two weeks before Christmas, party and state authorities decided to raise food prices, which they announced the next day, on Sunday. On Monday, December 14, Gdańsk shipyard workers refused to go to work. On Tuesday, the shipyard announced a general strike, the workers took to the streets, where protesters set fire to the Provincial Committee Communist Party building in Gdańsk. The Tri-city announced a curfew. On Wednesday, the strike spread to other production facilities in the north of the country. In radio and television speeches, Deputy Prime Minister Stanisław Kociołek called for the strikers to return to work. On the morning of Thursday, December 16, the staff of the Gdynia Shipyard were heading to work after a request by the Deputy Prime Minister, when Military Police and Army troops opened fire – killing several and wounding hundreds.
Shipyard employees and other workers formed a procession carrying the corpse of one young protester – whom they named Janek Wiśniewski – on a wooden door. They walked towards the building of the Presidium of the Urban National Council, where they were once again shot at by the Police and the army – equipped with tanks and heavy weaponry. During the incidents, 45 people were killed, including 18 in Gdynia, and over 1,600 were wounded. The Military Police detained over 3,000 people, most of whom were subjected to repression and torture.
Bruno Drywa, a thirty-year-old Gdynia shipyard worker, responded to the appeal by Stanisław Kociołek and on December 16, on his way to work, he was shot at the Gdynia Shipyard train station. He died at the hospital, leaving behind a wife and three children. He was buried at night, and the family – for fear of reprisals and forced resettlement – stealthily left their dream apartment and the Tri-city.
The Drywa family represents only a fragment of Krauze’s film. The camera follows the workers, both during the demonstration and during the bloody clashes with the police and the military, looks inside hospitals and jails, and to govern the offices of politicians. Conversations inside the Central Committee, making the decision to shoot the protests, contrast with the emotions of workers in protest.
Following these incidents, on December 22, 1970 First Secretary Władysław Gomułka quit the position at the Central Committee, being replaced by Edward Gierek. In February 1971, to prevent a new wave of strikes on the northern coast of the country, the price of meat was restored to that before December 13.
In January 1971 Antoni Krauze, a thirty-year-old director of television films, was in the Tri-City. The director describes the city a month after the massacre of workers:
“I was greeted by the charred facade of the train station, smashed windows at the Metropol [hotel], the burned Provincial Committee of the Communist Party heaquarters. Militia patrols were everywhere. I was placed in the Grand Hotel in Sopot. When I checked in, I had the impression that I was the only guest. A married couple friend of mine lived close by – the Piepka family. Once settled at the hotel, I immediately ran to them and got a very full account of what happened in December. Looking back on this meeting today, I do not only remember their tears, anger, bitterness, when they told me of the tragedy in the Tri-City, but also something that seemed extraordinary to me: ‘free’ people spoke to me. The debate was also attended by their 18-year-old son, Mirosław. On December 17, students were released from school and he went to Gdynia. He saw with his own eyes what happened there. Nearly 40 years later, in July 2009, he called me offering to cooperate on this film.”
The script of Black Thursday was written by Mirosław Piepka and Michał Pruski, two Tri-City journalists, witnesses of the events of December 1970. The inspiration was the fact that until now there has only been one film about this period – Skarga” / “Lament by Jerzy Wojcik, whose plot concerns the events in Szczecin.
Despite the groundbreaking importance of that period, the facts concerning the events are generally unknown. The government was in control of the news sources at the time and kept a very tight grip on what was reported. The truth about the course of workers’ protest and repression of the authorities came to light only when stories were printed by the Tygodnik Solidarność newspaper in the 1980s.
“Antoni Krauze’s film”, wrote Tadeusz Szyma in Kino (nr 2/2010), “is meticulously executed documentary, with a significant part of film – the pacification of the street scene and hospital intervention – is watched with bated breath like a dynamic action film”.
- Black Thursday. Janek Wiśniewski fell” Poland 2010. Director: Antoni Krauze, Screenwriter: Mirosław Piepka, Michał Pruski, Director of Photography: Jacek Petrycki, Music: Michał Lorenc, Set design: Zbigniew Dalecki, Costumes: Anna Grabowska, Editing: Rafał Listopad, Sound: Michał Muzyka. Cast: Marta Honzatko (Stefania Drywa), Michał Kowalski (Brunon Drywa), Marta Kalmus-Jankowska (Irena Drywa), Cezary Rybiński (Leon Drywa), Wojciech Tremiszewski (room-mate) and Wojciech Pszoniak (Władysław Gomułka), Piotr Fronczewski (Zenon Kliszko), Piotr Garlicki (Józef Cyrankiewicz), Witold Dębicki (Mieczysław Moczar), Grzegorz Gzyl (Jan Mariański). Production: Nordfilm, Agencja Reklamowa Set, Bob-Rollo. Financed by: Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej, Gdyński Fundusz Filmowy. Distribution: Kino Świat. Running time: 100 min. In cinemas February 25, 2011.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, january 2011
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