On November 19, 1981 the first active teachers’ strike began in my High School – VIII Lyceum of Lublin – named after the famous Polish writer Zofia Nałkowska. This strike was a general strike of teachers from the Lublin region, and later followed also by the so-called silent strikes of students, in which I, myself took part in the years 1983-1986. The strikes consisted of boycotting the lessons of the Russian language and silent boycotts – the refusal to learn the so-called ‘Adoption to life in a (socialist) family’ – this subject was considered by us, students, as propaganda, lying and instilling the role of socialist values. We also insisted on learning an honest version of history – not the communist version. In protest, instead of attending compulsory lessons on socialism, we went on strike and organised the so-called Quiet Breaks – sitting in silence on the steps of our high school.
NB. my school in Lublin recently celebrated its 94th birthday!
The first General Strike of teachers from the Lublin region started on November 19 and covered about 30 secondary schools in Lublin, Świdnik, Kraśnik, Dęblin and Puławy. It was an active strike and instead of training students for defence and socialist values, class lectures were conducted to fill the “blank spots” or to improve students’ knowledge in areas such as real (not communist) version of history, literature, culture or philosophy (the rest of the lessons were regular).
The conflict arose in connection with the appointment of the education superintendent in Lublin (October 1, 1981), the Regional Education Section of SOLIDARITY. “S” launched an action of opposition to the nomination (poster campaigns, resolutions). On October 14, 1981 (Teacher’s Day), during a teachers’ protest rally in Lublin, the chairman of the Education Section Zenobia Kitówna announced a list of 20 postulates conditioning the “revival of education in the province. Lublin “; they included i.a. demand the full implementation of the Gdańsk postulates signed by the Ministry of Education in November 1980, and the printing of deceptive history and language textbooks within six months. Polish, announcement of a competition for subject textbooks taking into account the psychophysical abilities of children, creating conditions for the development of an independent scout movement and independent youth movement, full satisfaction of the needs of children in terms of access to kindergartens (including taking over the Communist Party – KM PZPR building in Lublin for this purpose), introducing 2-week holidays during Christmas and weekly holidays during Easter, dismissal from the positions of curators and inspectors of corrupt management and appointment of new people to these positions after extensive public consultation and by way of competition. These demands (and the demand to dismiss the probation officer) became the subject of negotiations with the Lublin voivode in the following weeks; the failure of the talks led to a protest action.
On November 19, 1981 an active strike began in my High School – Lyceum No. VIII where the Regional strike committee Representatives were located including: Wiktor Adamczyk, Wacław Czajka (chairman), Lucyna Duma, Anna Garbalska, Barbara Haczewska, Jadwiga Hempel, Zenobia Kitówna, Kazimierz Krajka, Janina Szymajda and Grażyna Wójtowicz; the strike systematically extended, until December 2, 1981, covering 25 post-primary schools in Lublin, two in Świdnik and Kraśnik, and one in Dęblin and Puławy; about 200 lecturers gave independent lectures, half of whom were academics and students of the Catholic University of Lublin. The organisers of the strike prepared an Appeal of teachers to parents, children and youth of Lublin schools, incl. explaining in it that it is a “school free from administrative pressure, a self-governed school, a deceptive school”.
On November 27, 1981, the Lublin Voivode agreed to establish the Provincial Social Board of Education and Upbringing, elected in democratic elections and composed of representatives of all social groups interested in education and upbringing. On December 2, 1981, the voivode and strike committee representatives signed a preliminary agreement on the appointment of an initiative team for the selection of the board of education-WSROiW in democratic elections. The voivode allowed the continuation of the initiated changes in the content and methods of teaching history, in Polish. Polish, elements of philosophy, socio-economic sciences and ethics in the general framework of the program in all schools and educational institutions in the province. Lublin, also acknowledged the existence of the Independent Scout Movement and the Federation of School Youth, and declared that the administrative authority would not impede the activities of these organisations. To implement the decisions, the parties established a working group composed of representatives of the authorities and “S”. The active strike was canceled and all secondary schools were ready to go on strike until a final agreement was reached.
During the strike, the Regional School of Economics issued No. 14. “Teachers’ Strike Informant”.
It is important to remember that the repressions against the teachers and the youth were severe. They included most severe crimes committed by communists on teachers and students like killings and detentions. Students detained and controlled by street patrols of ZOMO (armed police of the totalitarian communist system) were identified, felt, searched, abused. Those who wore “resistors” (resistors were worn as symbols of opposition to the communist rule) were searched and the “resistors” were torn off at the spot. Similarly Solidarity stamps or stamps with the Mother of God were torn off , young students were dragged to the gates by ZOMO and had to deal with a few blows with a club, a few kicks. This was accompanied by propaganda attacks on radio and television, in which “ragged teenagers” were spat on.
Text and pictures: Iwona Golinska – the founder of The Polish Sue and the former student striker at VIII Lyceum of Zofia Nałkowska In Lublin.