Martial Law in Poland

General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland’s last Communist ruler, wanted history to judge him kindly. He worked hard in the latter years of his life to explain and rehabilitate himself after his imposition of martial law and brutal repression of the free trade union Solidarity in 1981 had made him the most hated man in Poland – and, for a time, an international pariah. And while many Poles eventually accepted his argument that martial law was the lesser of two evils (the alternative being a Soviet invasion), for others he remained forever a Soviet puppet, a traitor and a criminal. His personality was an enigma; his poker-faced demeanour and his trademark dark glasses only added to his sphinx-like looks. In the end, his life was a story of an intelligent and highly ambitious man – and more specifically, a Pole – operating between the terrible millstones of 20th-century history: Nazism and Stalinism, patriotism and Soviet domination, Communism and demands for freedom.


His first taste of that history came at the age of 16, in 1939, when he and his father, whose only crime was being a member of Poland’s lesser nobility, were deported by the Russians from their large estate to hard labour camps in Siberia, where his grandfather, an anti-Russian guerrilla leader, had perished many years earlier. Educated by priests at an elite school in Warsaw, he found himself felling trees in waistdeep snow. His father didn’t make it. The glare from the snow started an eye ailment which compelled him to wear dark glasses in bright light ever after. When the Hitler-Stalin alliance broke up, he joined a Polish army being raised by the Soviets and took part in the Soviet „liberation” of Poland from the Nazis. By then he had learned to speak fluent Russian and had become a convinced Communist. He volunteered and served in KGB units which were setting up Polish security forces to crush Polish nationalist resistance. Committed to a military career, he studied in Polish and Soviet military academies and gained the patronage of powerful Soviet generals, whose backing proved vital to his career. In 1947 he joined the Polish Communist party and thus set off on a fast rise to power, becoming a general at the age of 33 and defence minister at 45.


At the same time he was rising rapidly through the party ranks; at 48, he was elected to the main centre of power, the Politburo. From there, he and other party leaders watched the mounting discontent, until in 1980 it spilled over into mass stoppages, which compelled them – in a dramatic departure from Communist orthodoxy – to accept free trade unions and grant the legal right to strike. The various strike committees joined together in a new trade union which they called Solidarity. For 15 months, Solidarity’s power and influence grew: it numbered 10 million members out of a population of some 36 million. Frustration over its failure to extract any reforms from the regime led to (then outrageous) demands for free elections and a referendum on Poland’s alliance with the Soviet Union. The economy, for years a disaster area, had virtually collapsed.
Adapted from www.independent.co.uk


Ex. 1 Find the words or expressions in the text which mean the following:

1) the most important person in a country: __________
2) the one mentioned last, closer to the end: __________
3) sb excluded from a group: __________
4) sb who is controlled: __________
5) a puzzle: __________
6) for example counts or barons: __________
7) a health condition: __________
8) an agreement: __________
9) support: ___________
10)a politician responsible for the nation’s security: __________
11)to fall apart: __________
12)to stop existing: _________


Ex. 2 Match the expressions from the two columns into logical collocations:

1. the imposition                             demeanour
2. a free                                             through the party ranks
3. the lesser                                      Communist
4. a poker-faced                              the resistance
5. to operate                                    of two evils
6. a hard                                           stoppages
7. a convinced                                 of martial law
8. to crush                                       between millstones
9. to rise rapidly                             labour camp
10. mass                                           trade union


Ex. 3 Provide English equivalents of these expressions:


1) łagodnie kogoś ocenić
2) stłamszenie / stłumienie
3) zdrajca
4) przyczyniać się do czegoś
5) zmusić kogoś do czegoś
6) być czemuś oddanym
7) czyjeś wstawiennictwo
8) istotny
9) rosnące niezadowolenie
10)komitet strajkowy
11)absurdalne żądania

Grammar corner…

The higher your level, the more words you learn, and English has many words that look similar and can, therefore, confuse foreign learners, e.g. marital (related to marriage) and martial (related to fighting). Let’s begin with those starting with the letter „a” and make sure you always get them right. Accept (to agree to receive sth) v. except (excluding). Affect (to change sth) v. effect (a result of sth). All together (all at once) v. altogether (completely). Appraise (to assess) v. Apprise (to inform). Aloud (not silently) v. allowed (permitted).


Ex. 4 Choose the best word for each sentence.

1. I’m very pleased to be accepted / excepted to your organization.
2. The new policy is likely to effect / affect most businesses in the region.
3. After initially approving the plans, they suddenly changed them all together /
4. I asked an expert to appraise / apprise the value of the painting I’d inherited.
5. Please read the fragment of the report aloud / allowed, so that everyone can
hear it.



a ruler – władca
latter  – ostatni
a pariah parias /  – wygnaniec
a puppet – kukiełka
an enigma – zagadka
nobility  – szlachta
an ailment  – przypadłość
an alliance –  przymierze
backing  – poparcie
a defence minister –  minister obrony
to collapse – zawalić się
to break up – rozpaść się
the imposition of martial law  – ogłoszenie stanu wojennego
a free trade union –  wolny związek zawodowy
the lesser of two evils –  mniejsze zło
a poker-faced demeanour  – pokerowa twarz
t o ope r a t e be twe e n two millstones – między młotem a kowadłem
a hard labour camp obóz ciężkich robót
a convinced Communist  – komunista z przekonania
to crush the resistance –  złamać opór
to rise rapidly through the party ranks – szybko awansować w szeregach partii
mass stoppages  – masowe przestoje
to judge sb kindly  – łagodnie kogoś ocenić
repression –  stłamszenie / stłumienie
a traitor –  zdrajca
to add to sth  – przyczynić się do czegoś
to compel sb to sth  – zmusić kogoś do czegoś
to be committed to sth –  być czemuś oddanym
the patronage of sb  – czyjeś wstawiennictwo
vital – istotny
mounting discontent  – rosnące niezadowolenie
a strike committee –  komitet strajkowy
outrageous demands  – absurdalne żądania
liberation –  wyzwolenie
glare  – odblask

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Ex. 1
1) a ruler
2) latter
3) a pariah
4) a puppet
5) an enigma
6) nobility
7) an ailment
8) an alliance
9) backing
10)a defence minister
11)to collapse
12)to break up
Ex. 2
1) the imposition of martial law
2) a free trade union
3) the lesser of two evils
4) a poker-faced demeanour
5) to operate between two millstones
6) a hard labour camp
7) a convinced Communist
8) to crush the resistance
9) to rise rapidly through the party ranks
10)mass stoppages

Ex. 3
1) to judge sb kindly
2) repression
3) a traitor
4) to add to sth
5) to compel sb to sth
6) to be committed to sth
7) the patronage of sb
8) vital
9) mounting discontent
10)a strike committee
11)outrageous demands
12) liberation

Ex. 4
1) accepted
2) affect
3) altogether
4) appraise
5) aloud