Dziwny łuk solidarności
Sometime before the strike Priest Stanisław Orzechowski had already felt that the growing tension would lead to a crisis. The opposition was consolidating during the lectures in priesthood: “We were organizing lectures in academic ministry that were led by people who presented a true version of history [...]. That, of course, was something the authority disliked, thus the tension was growing stronger. The tension which was manifested by hearings I had been called on”. During those lectures, priest Orzechowski had met a variety of people who later engaged themselves in the Wrocław events of 1980: historians, among others: Turkowski and Suleja; and many artists, and others e.g. Maciej Zięba a subsequent Dominican who participated in education of young people.
When the wave of strikes approached from Gdańsk, those people started to get ready for such an event in Wrocław. Maciej Zięba came to priest Orzechowski and asked whether the priest could lead the Holy Mass which was being prepared because there would be a solidarity strike of Wrocław and Gdańsk. “There was no problem with that, apart from me not knowing what to say [to those people]. Because I had a feeling that it was not about the Mass only”. The place was similar to that in Gdańsk - there was a hanging cross, a picture of Holy Mary near it and a photo of Pope John Paul II. “Because the bus depot was located on the territory that belonged to Jesuits, at Aleja Pracy street so, when they [Jesuits] found out about the strike they showed their willingness to help”. Originally, priest Orzechowski had no idea what type of “help” it could be: “Jesuits got on buses [...] and there they were ready to hear people’s confessions before the Mass and during it.”.
Priest Orzechowski did not ask Maciej Zieba about the opposition’s opinion about this mass. “I thought it would be right to go to curia and talk about it”. It was not the first time for this kind of situation to happen with the Mass itself, however, the sermon would cause some problems. “One of the auxiliary bishops advised me to read the latest letter from bishops. Only later had I realized that wasn’t a good idea at all. [...] A ‘living’ word is always perceived better.” The letter was about atonement, it did not fit into the situation, so the priest read, in tension, only parts of the letter. The scenery of the event was particular: “There was an altar on one side, near the gate [...] and thousands of people gathered behind the fence [...]. There was a feeling in the air that something important was happening.”
At the end of the mass, as he claims, “some sagacious inspiration appeared”. Therefore he felt he was entitled to say something to people. “I let myself not to comment on the political situation but to acknowledge that what was happening was a right thing. It is the society’s will, a will of workers. And the demands are right”. He wanted people to understand that he, as a representative of the Church, supported them. Then he said: “In a moment all of you, standing behind the fence [...] will go back home to eat warm supper while they, who started this protest, will stay here. And we cannot be sure that they have something to feed themselves with. Put your hands in pockets and check whether there is a penny inside, and throw it above the fence [...] Then, out of these coins thrown above an arch was formed.” That elevated the mood and due to this step, people behind the fence showed that they were not just onlookers but supporters. A joyful sound of conversations was heard. They were connected by one thing - an important desire. During that time priest Orzechowski met “brilliant young people” - Władysław Frasyniuk and other people involved. Maciej Zięba had already shown himself as an intelligent person before, he started writing to solidarity newspaper very early.
Shortly afterwards, in autumn 1980 priest Orzechowski was invited to a nationwide hunger strike of railway men, probably because his father and two brothers were railway men. The protest lasted for 6 days and took place in the Wroclaw locomotive depot. The priest was used there as a mediator during conversations with the authorities. After many years it turned out that among those strikers there were concealed people from security services. During those days of hunger strike, on Sunday, at the door to the depot there was an altar where a Mass was held. It was astonishing that, „artists from opera, theater and teachers came and showed their support”. It showed that people are interested and they support railway men. „It was touching as the society showed its unity” When he was going to the ministry, Security Service was driving after him but nothing happened.
After these events, priest Orzechowski received an edict from cardinal Gulbinowicz who entitled him to be the “priest of the workers”. “The summit of our work on these whole environment of solidarity in Wrocław was Kongres Ludzi Pracy (the Congress of Workers)”. The university authorities were also propitious for the workers as they shared lecture rooms. A lot of people from Czech and Hungary were coming, priest Orzechowski was working with students on inviting the representatives of all workplaces in Wrocław to such meetings. It was the best outcome of the solidarity activity in Wrocław. “Then, Wrocław [...] grew as a special city and a special environment”.
As a priest of the workers Orzechowski became friends with priest Jerzy Popiełuszko who was active in Warsaw. “ Three days before [his] abduction Security Services (UB) I was at his place because I invited him to spiritual retreat in Wrocław.” Popiełuszko wanted to come but it was hardly possible because he was constantly followed by UB. In the worst case he was to write notes for the spiritual retreat, but he did not manage to. So they came up with an idea of the workers pilgrimage - that brought people closer.
During martial law being a priest and preaching for the workers was particularly difficult because he was followed by the Security Service. “The number of hearings was getting higher [...] and at some point, I was in a line of being ‘eliminated’”. When the internment started, the care must have been taken of the internees’ families. The representatives of peasantry solidarity came to him. With his support they wanted to help internees’ families by, for example, bringing food. It wasn’t simple because Wrocław was surrounded by the Soviet soldiers. Priest Orzechowski was riding a motorcycle around the city to find a way which was poorly guarded and bring the meat. He was successful even though he was controlled. The meat was hidden in the chancel in the church under construction at Bujwida Street. The priest told people to bring bags to the Mass so they would get something for Christmas. “I told the organist to play Christmas carols, so during his play we had a chance to chop the meat. However, UB got the hint of what was going on and came to the parson’s office. The parson had no idea what was going on. “He then realized what was up and told UB that the noise was the rattling of church organ on the chancel.
Coming back to the strike and the Mass on a bus depot - the Security Service had to be a bit surprised by such a huge manifestation. “People had their heart in their mouths” but after first hearings, priest Orzechowski stopped to feel scared. They were so frequent that one could get used to it - also to ubiquitous wiretapping and frequent inspections. The event that occurred at the bus depot was something to be proud of, a beginning of citizenship creation, that later was shaped during martial law.
Students were inspired by priest Orzechowski’s activity. Other priests behaved very well during the strike. Also later, when he preached during a mass for the Motherland in the still-under construction church, in which people couldn’t squeeze into. Security Service kept an eye on these masses, provoked people by checking their documents. At the same time, in a nearby dormitory, students were distributing anticommunist leaflets. There were a lot of priests during the Mass - aforementioned Jesuits, priest Franciszek Głód and many young priests who later were coming to Masses. “I have never experienced any criticism [...] always liking”, and the priest was invited to many parishes to deliver sermons and lead retreats. Cardinal Gulbinowicz also took care of workers and supported these activities. “I remembered [his] huge sagacity. Like, he wanted to spare me [...]. We were conducting the very same thing”. There were no complaints from people about the strike being a cause of paralysis of the city. It was “citizenship that grew”.
© Všechna práva vycházejí z práv projektu: 1980: A Turbulent Year in Poland and the Czechoslovak Reaction