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Thursday, 8 March 2018

President: March 1968 a struggle for independence

  |   Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw Observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw A special meeting, held within the framework of an educational project of the President's Office called "Lessons on the Republic of Poland" A special meeting, held within the framework of an educational project of the President's Office called "Lessons on the Republic of Poland" A special meeting, held within the framework of an educational project of the President's Office called "Lessons on the Republic of Poland" A special meeting, held within the framework of an educational project of the President's Office called "Lessons on the Republic of Poland" A special meeting, held within the framework of an educational project of the President's Office called "Lessons on the Republic of Poland" A special meeting, held within the framework of an educational project of the President's Office called "Lessons on the Republic of Poland" A special meeting, held within the framework of an educational project of the President's Office called "Lessons on the Republic of Poland"

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday that the events of March 1968 "were undoubtedly the struggle for independence without censorship as there was no full independence in those days; there was censorship."

 

The President made the statement during observances marking the 50th anniversary of the March 1968 student protests at the University of Warsaw. The protests were followed by an anti-Semitic campaign which forced many of Poland's Jews to leave the country.

 

See also: Address by the President of the Republic of Poland at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of March 1968 at the University of Warsaw "There was no full independence in those days; there was censorship. (...)Today, Poland is independent; there is no censorship. There is bread and freedom and everything the generation of my parents and grandparents were fighting for, President Duda went on to say.

 

"All those who showed great bravery during the March 1968 events are heroes of Polish freedom," the President said.

 

The head of state stressed that protesting students demanded independence without censorship from communists. "Of course, communists could not accept this demand, and that is why they ruthlessly crushed the student protests," Andrzej Duda said, adding that some of the protesting students were later imprisoned, like, for instance, Karol Modzelewski and Adam Michnik.

 

 

The President stressed that "we should never forget all these acts of courage", and explained he had in mind the years 1968, 1980 and 1981, and the entire 1980's marked by activities of independence and Solidarity underground organisations.

 

"The University of Warsaw site is a place marked by the heroism and courage of Polish youth," President Duda said, stressing that students protesting in 1968 were "the heroes of Polish freedom."

 

"You are the heroes of our freedom, like the Solidarity trade union of the 1980's, like the Cursed Soldiers (soldiers fighting against the communist regime after the end of WWII - PAP), like the heroes of the worker protests of 1956," Andrzej Duda said.

 

 

President Duda, who earlier on Thursday laid a wreath at a plaque commemorating Poles of Jewish descent who left Poland in 1968, asked people who were forced to leave Poland in March 1968, people who were killed and their families, for forgiveness.

 

The plaque is placed on the wall of the Gdanski railway station in Warsaw. "I am asking you to forgive the then Poland for this hideous act," Duda said, stressing that Poland of today was not responsible for this and did not have to ask for forgiveness.

 

Referring to the tragic protests of 1970, when people were shot dead, of 1976, and 1981, the president repeated that Poland of today, which is free and independent, was not responsible for any of them, and did not have to apologise.

 

The President asked for forgiveness for the then Poland. "I am speaking in the name of Poland, I am asking you for forgiveness, asking you to forget and believe that Poland is sorry today as you are not here," he said.

 

The head of state regretted that Poland of today suffered a loss because of their absence. "(...) you are the elite of intelligentsia in other countries, you are successful and respected people living in other countries, your achievements are not the achievements of the Republic of Poland," he said.

  • "Lessons on the Republic of Poland"

 

In the afternoon the president was taking part in a special meeting, held within the framework of an educational project of the President's Office called "Lessons on the Republic of Poland". Taking part in the "Lesson," held at Warsaw's Belweder Palace, were direct participants in the events of March '68 - Irena Lasota, Petruska Sustrova, Zofia Romaszewska and Barbara Fedyszak-Radziejowska, as well as young people from schools in Radom (central Poland), Sosnowiec (southern Poland) and Warsaw.

 

"I still remember those times (...) although I was still a boy at the time," the president recalled. "But I know what it means to live in a country that's not really free, really sovereign; I know what it means to live in a country which is subjugated, whose government is subjugated."

 

"And that's why I always say: I will never be subjugated by any external government. If someone expects it to be different, let them not choose me as president of the Republic. Because I will not listen to any government - from this side or that, from the East or from the West," Andrzej Duda stressed. "Fortunately, we have arrived at a time when it is possible to say such things in Poland with confidence, and to hold such a position without risking your life."

 

President Andrzej Duda went on to speculate that in March '68 people were conscious of Poland's 50th anniversary of regaining independence. "I don't know whether that had any importance then or not, whether the participants remembered it or not, but from our point of view today (...) it is symbolic," he declared.

 

The president added that his generation had no need to apologise for the events of March '68, though he sought the forgiveness of Polish Jews who had suffered as a result. "My generation has no reason to apologise for what happened in March '68 to Polish Jews, who were simply expelled from Poland by the communist authorities. They were persecuted and expelled. My Poland has no reason to apologise, but I ask them to forgive Poland generally," he concluded.

 

 

 

The March 1968 events embrace a series of major protests against the government of the Polish People's Republic launched by students, intellectuals and other social groups. The countrywide student protests, initially called out against the authorities' ban on an anti-Russian drama by Poland's national bard Adam Mickiewicz and the expulsion of two Jewish-Polish students - one of them later anti-communist opposition leader Adam Michnik - from Warsaw University, were suppressed by security forces in all major academic centres across the country. The government responded with a mass anti-Jewish campaign branded as "anti-Zionist," which resulted in the mass emigration of Jews from Poland. (PAP)

 

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