Global Dispatches: Poland — ‘Black Thursday’

March 8, 2011 Updated: April 10, 2011

WARSAW—Any minute now, the lights will dim and the film will begin. I figure the back corner of the cinema is a good place to sit. With my laptop angled and the display dimmed I’m hoping to avoid registering a reading on anybody’s irritation gauge.

What I am hoping to do, though, is bring this week’s Global Dispatch to readers in real time from one of the most significant cinematic events in Polish history. Well almost in real time. I have to backtrack a little to mention a cameo appearance by the most prominent politician in Poland, but luckily we have 20 minutes of ads before the actual movie starts for that.

“The importance of this film lies in the fact that it demonstrates to all Poles that finding ultimate closure with respect to certain difficult Polish issues is good for Poland and that this closure is a just conclusion.”

With these words Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, several days earlier had inaugurated an exclusive pre-premiere of the film in question for government officials and other dignitaries, under the honorary sponsorship of the president.

But back to me, tucked away not very presidentially in the corner of my own little premiere, and the rolling opening credits: Czarny Czwartek (Black Thursday).

The film tells the true story of atrocities committed by communist government forces in the context of peaceful civic protests in the Polish port city of Gdynia in December 1970.

Michal Pruski, one of the screenwriters, described the impact of the incident on the film’s official website: “Thursday, Dec. 17, 1970, in Gdynia was definitely the darkest day in communist Poland. All the evil and cruelty that characterized the authorities of that time, their deceit and their complete disregard for their own citizens came to a dramatic climax on that one day, when unsuspecting people were lured into a trap, and shot at like targets at a firing range.”

The plot follows the fate of a worker, a family man by the name of Brunon Drywa, not involved in the protests in any way, obediently on his way back to work after several days of shipyard closures due to strikes and unrest. But what seemed to be a televised appeal by the authorities for striking workers to return to the shipyards, turned out to be a calculated plan to orchestrate a standoff between the police and army, and workers showing up for their morning shift.

When the crowd assembled, the shooting began. Our hero, Brunon Drywa was shot and killed.

All in all, 39 people were killed and 1,164 wounded in the several days of unrest that took place that fateful December.

Co-screenwriter, Miroslaw Piepka, talked about the portrayal of the massacre in the film: “In post-World War II Poland, there hasn’t been a crime as cynical, essentially a calculated execution, methodically planned, committed with no scruples whatsoever. That’s why Black Thursday has to be shown exactly as it truly was, to recreate the details of that day through the fate of these very same ordinary people, who were touched by a drama on a scale that’s hard to imagine.”

The prime minister added on the official ministerial website that although justice was not completely served when it comes to those responsible for the crimes that took place in 1970, “a greater justice may lie in the fact that although those responsible for those crimes were not sentenced, those who are now being praised are the victims. They truly won not just in terms of what happened that fateful December, but in terms of the entire history of post-World War II Poland.”

Perhaps a thought that makes the gloomy ending to Black Thursday a little brighter.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'