MAY CONFRONTATIONS

JAN ŻARYN

Beginning with the year 1945, members of the Polish Labour Party read their party’s instructions carefully, according to which 1 may – the Labour Day – was to symbolize the victory of ‘people’s democracy’, whereas the day of 3 May, despite being officially celebrated, was to be evaluated negatively in propaganda, as religiosity and backwardness. Shortly speaking, positive emotions directed to the day of 1 May was to prove that ‘the labour class became a co-host of the country and [was to] annihilate all kinds of scheming of reactionaries from the sign of National Armed Forces and the National Army cultivating the betrayal of national interests’. Those who were to make scheme, were easily recognized – for they participated in the Holy Mass and marches on 3 May. This confrontation between 1 and 3 May, decreed by communists caused a reaction. Next year – 1946 – legal Polish People’s Alliance boycotted on 1 May, and two days later there were riots all over country, in which young people participated, mainly students taking part in ceremonies of the anniversary of the Constitution of 3 May and the ecclesiastical feast of Our Lady the Queen of Poland. From the year 1923, according to the decision of pope Pius XI, the day of 3 May – the national day of Constitution of 1791 – for it was dedicated also to Our Lady the Queen of Poland. At that time in Cracow there were arrests of organizers of the meeting, and on lists of the Security Office – of people potentially involved in preparation of the ceremonies on 3 May – there was the surname of Karol Wojtyła, an activist of ‘Bratniak’ at the Jagellonian University and a student of this university. Communists had not decided to introduce officially the day of 1 May into the calendar of national days till the 40s of the last century. However, in 1949 they decided to prepare Poles to accept this scenario. In the same year the first day of May was on Sunday. The communist authorities forced employees of state workplaces to participate in a march, and priests were forbidden to celebrate the Holy Mass before midday. In 1950 the day of 1 May became a national day. Also other days – from 1 to 3 May – became an Education Day, and later also Days of Book and Press, certainly the socialist one. The Constitution of 3 May considered positively by the authorities, was, however, excluded from the context of a religious day.

During next decades of the real Polish People’s Republic, the Labour Day became a convenient tool used for compulsory legitimization to the authority in Poland. The mass participation of inhabitants from Polish cities and towns in a march, in the presence of the I secretary and his people proved the rooting of the system of real socialism in Poland. So, it was the main reason why the day of 3 may became an important symbol of the unity of the Christian nation, aspiring for life in the political system growing from Polish traditions, not foreign reign. 50 years ago, on 3 May, at Jasna Góra the Primate of Millennium was presiding over the main millennium ceremonies which were attended by nearly 300 thousand believers. The unusual significance was seen in marches of 3 May in the years of the martial law. In 1982, mainly after the Holy Masses, participants of the marches came out into the streets in: Warsaw, Gdańsk, Gdynia, Szczecin, Elbląg, Toruń, Lublin, Kraków, Łódź, Gliwice and Bydgoszcz. As it was written in reports, there were incidents there. Communist police ZOMO were dispersing crowds of protesters with gas or truncheons, or arrested hundreds of people and took over thousands of leaflets, occasion publications or brochures. In Kraków, because of an attack with a truncheon, 19-year-old Franciszek Rycerz died. Moreover, the day of 1 May became a day of anti-Semite manifestations. On this day there were confrontations between patriots and participants of official marches; there were confrontations with ZOMO and mass arrests; in 1983 a worker of a bookbinding workshop in Kraków, 29-years-old Ryszard Smagur, was killed when being attacked with a thunderflash in his neck.

After the war communists began a new war – about the may holidays. Poles, unable to agree to the verdict of history, took the action. Today marches on the 1st of May disappeared from the public space, disgraced by the Polish United Labour Party and its ally parties; we celebrate the day of 2 May - the Day of Flag and Polish Diaspora, and next day – again, like in the Second Polish Republic, we spiritually participate in a thanksgiving prayer to Our Lady the Queen of Poland and we reminisce the Constitution – the first one in Europe and the second one in the world.

AA

„Niedziela” 18/2016

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • Translation: Aneta Amrozik • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl