GB No. 8, summer 1992


It is the successive year of the on-going public protest against the construction of the dam across the Dunajec river, sited near Czorsztyn, organized by the FREEDOM & PEACE MOVEMENT ("Wolność i Pokój" - WiP).

Although the dam had been originally designed in the 1960s, the construction did not commence until 1976. Not unlike many other major investments under communism the construction was simply meant to reflect "the power of progress", not necessarily fitting into any complex scheme of regional development. Neither were the ecological specifics of the site taken into consideration, nor the financial feasibility of the project itself, for that matter. Although there is a general consensus that the whole project, in terms of finance alone, had always been a complete non-starter, the chief investor stubbornly puts forward the following arguments:

If one were to adopt this rather peculiar line of reasoning, the inevitable conclusion would be that communism was still the only logical road to follow - after all, a lot has been invested in its name and even more has been destroyed.

For the time being, however, the castles of Czorsztyn and Niedzica still are where they used to be, and the Pieniny National Park is still full of unique, endemic plants.

Although the siting of the dam sparked off an immediate public protest, no decisive, organized action against its implementation was taken until 1989, when WiP initiated the "STOP THE DAM" project. In due course the ANARCHISTS FEDERATION, I PREFER TO BE MOVEMENT and the GREEN FEDERATION joined in.

This year brought about a wave of repressions against the protesters - police harrasment, detentions and unlawful convictions.

On July 1, 1992 WiP resumed a direct action against the on-going construction work by blocking off all access roads to the site. What followed shortly afterwards, on July 2nd and 3rd, was particularly dramatic.

JULY 2, 1992 - crisp, rejuvenating morning. All of us are sitting on the small bridge by the ruins of the Czorsztyn castle, the sun already high above the tree tops, the mountain ridges in sharp relief against the sky. Right in front of us a few stationary lorries with the drivers swearing at us profusely for barring access to the site. We are all sitting tight on the bridge pretending to ignore them.

Around 8 o'clock a red Tatra lorry appears and drives right up to the backs of the people sitting across the road. After a while the lorry is being driven straight through the line of the sitting people. Everyone scrambles up in panic trying to dodge the charging lorry. Some are still trying to climb the bumpers and get inside the cab. Out of a sudden a terrible scream cuts through the morning air - the first victim - a woman run over. I manage somehow to climb up to the cab's door yelling at the driver to stop. He calmly winds up the window and drives on. The people around start chanting "Killer! Killer!" The front tyre rolls over my foot - I am just lucky to have the steel capped boots. A few men drag up a wooden beam and try to wedge it under the front wheels of the lorry. Adam Borysławski tries to get the driver to stop. I cannot see clearly any more, having been pushed behind the backs of the people. The lorry dragging the wooden beam behind cuts down "Borys" with it. He falls down screaming, while the beam is being dragged over his left foot, crushing it in the process.

The lorry accelerates and speeds off. We are trying to administer the first aid to all wounded in the scuffle but nobody knows how to help "Borys", who is now lying on the road in a puddle of blood. His crushed foot is peppered with sand and dirt. Kasia Makiewicz, whose legs had been run over, is in deep shock. A few girls are bandaging "Borys's" foot and Kasia is being given some pain-killers. After about half an hour an ambulance arrives and takes away the injured to the local hospital.

Some people are now trying to build an impromptu barricade across the road and hold on to the position. A few of us and myself drive away to report what had just happened to the Public Prosecutor in the town of Nowy Targ. In the meantime "Borys" is undergoing an emergency surgery in hospital but the doctors are not sure if his foot can still be saved.

A few days later I read in the paper that the driver of the red Tatra lorry had been charged with "an unintentional infliction of bodily harm" and subsequently released.

On July 3, 1991 the police raided the homes of all participants in the protest of the previous day, throwing them out. Four people had been charged with "resisting arrest" and are awaiting trial. The belongings of the young ecologists had been smashed up and thrown out of the windows.

At the turn of July and August another blockade of access roads was organized and many people had been remanded in police custody as a result.

Just like the year before, the police officers presented their version of the events in court. According to the protesters, the action of the police was totally illegal and the evidence against them fabricated. One of the protesters claims to have been brutally assaulted and even kicked by the police

Admittedly, only one fine had been levied - a significant improvement on last year.

Only very recently, on September 23, Adam Borysławski, "Borys", walked out of the hospital - on crutches. The action of WiP is continuing and around 150.000 people have already signed the petition to stop the construction of the dam - it is the largest ever ecological petition signed in Poland. It does not look, however, like the authorities are taking it seriously.

Despite the fact that the present construction is against the law and paid for with the taxpayers' money.

Tomasz Poller
Freedom & Peace Movement
transl. by Sigullum Ltd.

GB No. 8, summer 1992 | Contents