It has been another anniversary of the murder of Grzegorz Przemyk – a person important for a generation, becoming mature during the years of the martial law, who is nearly forgotten or unknown today, especially to people who were at his age.

He is beating in such a way, so that there would be no traces

He was a young poet, a graduate of the Secondary School named A. Frycz-Modrzewski in Warsaw, son of an oppositionist poet – Barbara Sadowska. On 12 May 1983, having passed the written school-leaving exam, he invited a few mates to his house. They drank a little wine. It got dark outside because of the cloudy sky. Przemyk liked storm. He shouted: We are going to Starówka, Let’s get wet. On the Royal Square they were stopped by militia officers. Przemyk and his friend were taken to the commissariat at Jezuicka street 1/3. When he did not want to show his documents stating that it was not his obligation, because of the suspension of the martial law, one of the officers hit him with a bludgeon. A fight started. Other officers came to help. Some of them were holding Przemyk’s hands, the others were beating him with bludgeons and beating his belly and back with their elbows, and when he fell down, they were kicking him. The shout of the beaten boy was heard outside the building. One of the officers was instructing: Beat him in such a way so that there would not be any traces. Grzegorz was taken by the ambulance. An officer on duty was trying to persuade the staff of the ambulance that the patient was a drug-addict and had psychical disorders. Przemyk was sitting hunched, and made an impression of somebody absent-minded, did not react to questions of a nurse. A psychiatrist in the headquarter of emergency department at Hoża St. did not state it was a beating or the alleged insanity. Barbara Sadowska took her son home from the psychiatric hospital. Next day he was taken to hospital in Solec. After midnight – on 14 May – doctors started an operation on him. I feel like fainting – said one of them when he looked inside. The boy had, among the others, torn intestine, peritonitis, general bruises and hematomas inside his stomach and bruised occiput of head. Grzegorz Przemyk died in the early afternoon as a result of strong abdominal trauma. He would have reached the age of 19 in three days.

The quietest funeral

Blessed priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, who was celebrating the funeral Holy Mass in the church of St. Stanisław Kostka, was appealing for a quiet funeral procession. Embittered young people listened obediently. The funeral took a form of independence protest of thousand participants, during which the authorities did not dare to intervene. The funeral procession went from the church in Żoliborz to the graveyard in Powązki.

The death of Przemyk might have been a revenge on his mother – a rebellious poet acting in the Primate’s Committee and helping the convict and sentenced for political activity, or maybe it was a result of ‘feisty’ attitude of Grzegorz and his apparition: long, ruffled hair, too big sweater, his tall posture, worthy irritating look and proud answer to a question asked in a silly way, which might have raised aggression of a not much older boy in a militia uniform.

Przemyk was a sensitive, wrathful teenager, but living such problems like boys at his age: he dreamt, loved, had plans for the future. He printed and contributed leaflets, folded ‘tissue paper’. He was going to study History of Art.

The guitar, the piano and his own poetry were quiet refuges where he hid himself from the noise of a house full of representatives of the bohemia of those times, staying in it: undervalued or forbidden artists, cursed poets (for example Stahura, Milczewski-Bruno), the youth, and older ‘children-flowers’, not saying about workers hardly released from prisons, who had served their sentences ‘for freedom’; a house in which there was a care about a man, but he did not find a refuge for himself; the guitar, the piano and poetry were the refuges into which he escaped from violence spreading outside.

A poet, son of a poet

The atmosphere at home, parents’ divorce, mother’s illness and persecutions for her independence activity deepened inner conflicts of Przemyk and were the reason for his earlier maturity and he was more mature than the boys at his age. He is reminiscent as a man of a sensitive, open and tolerant, about friendly, warmhearted attitude towards people and a cheerful personality. Sometimes he was domineering in his tendency to literary exhibitionism, the need of creative auto-presentation. He used to say: Come to listen, I have written a poem. He created a group of adorers around himself.

He enjoyed sitting with the guitar, wine and a cigarette. He read poems, played the guitar, sang Wysocki and Cohen, parodied Kaczmarski, because he did not like him. He used to carry a haversack inherited from Edward Stachura (the one which his mother later put into his coffin with mountain boots for his last road) and with a cigarette in his mouth, he performed songs in a hoarse voice.

He was in a hurry. The death was in what he spoke, read and wrote about. He lived veins to death. He was reciting a couplet, coughed and added: It is a pity that the elect of gods die at such a young age. It is difficult to say how much death was a manifestation of the youthful decadence, and how much it was a sign of intuitive anticipation of the premature fulfillment of his life. In the poems of Przemyk, the inner tear was visible, a painful necessity of creating with the whole himself and completely. He was a creator and a creation – as he wrote – ‘suffering with his own blood and filling up’. He seemed to ask whether being ‘immersed’ in his creativity, ‘sentenced’ to the pain of creating, marked by the creative future, a mark of a creator, could he ‘read out his time’ in the threshold of his poetic and mature life?

Disagreeing with the world

His maturation was accompanied by his struggles with the hostile of the world and fear of something unexpected, something sinister. In some of his poems it is clearly possible to feel the atmosphere of youthful over-sensitivity, intoxication of sensations, desires, nearly narcotic visions, after which, in a kind of ‘an emptiness of childhood’, between ‘the hell’ and ‘the heaven’ there is a repentance, a relief resulting from spiritual initiation.

The tragedy of the times of tear, choices, generational loss, alienation, which are included in the poetry of Przemyk, surely refer to his experiences connected with the outbreak of the martial law ending the time of the mutual close relations, solidarity, to moral dilemmas about attitudes, relations among people, issues of friendship – no-friendship, faithfulness to ideals, even at the cost of one’s sacrifice, devotion, suffering. However, it is shown in a very self-contained way, without great words or emotions.

Hence, there are poems in which the funny form, plays on words complementing one another in new, surprising meanings, says about the simplest truths, describing the world seen with a trained eye of an astute observer (‘Do not cry, child/through an anion/as I do not believe, anyway’).

The poetry of Przemyk made an excellent impression on John Paul II and Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko. ‘I really recommend His moving poetry – wrote Fr. Jan Twardowski in the introduction to the collection of poems of Grzegorz, who has a good soul, noble sensitivity, is very promising. The young poet should be saved from forgetfulness’.

During his life, a collection of poems was published, entitled ‘An eye’. Another after-death collection of poems, entitled ‘Son , or maybe dream’ was published by one of conspiratorial publishing houses in 1983 and translated also into French.

Effective cheating of militia

On the building of XVII Secondary School named A. Frycz Modrzewski in Warsaw in June 2003, a memorial plate was unveiled, on which the poem ‘A game of honesty’ from the collection ‘An eye’ was had been placed. Also on the wall of the former commissariat of the Civic Militia at Jezuicka St. , on 12 May 2012, a plate of black marble was unveiled, reminding about the tragic event of 12 May 1983.

On 12 August 2007, the president of the Polish Republic Lech Kaczyński rewarded the murdered poet with the Cavalry Cross of the Poland Rebirth Order - Polonia Restituta ‘for prominent merits in the activity for the sake of democratic changes in Poland’.

Despite the passage of time and political changes, not all direct perpetrators of this crime have been punished, nor their possible principals. The Supreme Court in July 2010,finallystated the invalidity of the crime, admitting that this case is a failure of the Polish justice and manipulation on the part of the police and the Security Service had been prepared in such a sophisticated way that even after years it has proved to be effective. For the same reason, in October 2012, the Institute of the National Remembrance discontinued the investigation concerning the cheating in the case of the fatal beating Grzegorz Przemyk and responsibilities of officers and the management of the Ministry of Interior-in the Security Services and the police-and the communist authorities for illegal activities. In2011, the European Court of Human Rights decided to examine whether the Polish courts properly had explained the circumstances of the death of Grzegorz Przemyk and that police officers were brought to justice.


"Niedziela" 20/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl