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40th Anniversary of the Strike in the Higher School for Fire Service Officers

On the night of 24 to 25 November 1981, the cadets of the then Higher School for Fire Service Officers (WOSP) initiated a sit-in strike. They did not agree to the provisions of the planned amendment to the Higher Education Act, which was to change the status of the school. WOSP – so far civilian, though subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs – was to be governed by the Military Higher Education Act. That would open up the possibility of using its cadets, for example, to quash social protests. The sit-in was joined by over 90 percent of the cadets and some WOSP employees. Initially, the strikers attempted to hold talks with the Joint Committee involving representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Science, Higher Education and Technology, and Fire Service Headquarters. However, after 20 hours of negotiations, the government broke off the talks.

In the most difficult moments, the strikers drew spiritual support from the pastoral service of Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko. He would celebrate Holy Masses which the strikers could attend and he would hear their confessions.

On 30 November 1981, WOSP was dissolved by the Council of Ministers. In spite of the information about the dissolution of WOSP, the propaganda campaign, and the pressure exerted by their parents, the majority of the cadets continued the protest. The strike was crushed on 2 December 1981 by several thousand policemen (going under a typical communist designation of Citizen’s Militia), the Motorized Reserves of the Citizens’ Militia (ZOMO), and soldiers of the Vistula Military Units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The students and employees were forcibly removed from the school. But the protest of the cadets was by no means over. It only changed its form to a ‘wandering’ sit-in. The strike of the young fire officers continued until martial law was imposed.

Classes resumed at the beginning of February 1982 and since then the school has been called the Main School of Fire Service (SGSP). Over 70 WOSP students were prevented from continuing their education – they were not allowed to complete their studies at any Polish institution of higher learning. Many were persecuted. A group of former WOSP employees was also not employed at SGSP.

The reverse of the coin features a crowd supporting the strikers – Warsaw residents, parents, and delegates from higher learning institutions and workplaces, all gathered in front of the Higher School for Fire Service Officers building.

Jakub Binio