Poland’s last communist leader laid to rest amid protests
June 2, 2014
About 300 protesters gathered Friday outside the Warsaw’s military cathedral where the funeral mass was held for Poland’s last communist leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski who died on May 25, at the age of 91.
While the former leader of Solidarity movement that ended Communism in Poland, Lech Walesa, attended the Catholic service, dozens of protesters outside the cathedral held up signs calling Gen Jaruzelski a ``traitor to the nation" and a "murderer".
On Dec. 13, 1981, Gen. Jaruzelski, under pressure from Moscow, imposed martial law in Poland in an attempt to crush the nationwide Solidarity freedom movement. Thousands of political opponents were imprisoned and as many as 100 people lost their lives over an 18-month period. Walesa was detained for almost a year.
President Bronislaw Komorowski, who attended the church service and delivered a speech called Gen Jaruzelski " a politician, a soldier, a man who carried the burden of responsibility for the most difficult and perhaps the most dramatic decision in Poland's history after World War II.'' The president praised him for allowing a peaceful political transition "that brought fruit in the form of our freedom and independence".
After the service, about 100 protesters gathered at Warsaw’s Powazki cemetery, where Jaruzelski was to be laid to rest. They protested against the decision to bury the general at one of the city's most historic cemeteries. They held pictures of the victims of the brutal 1981 martial law crackdown.
However, Jaruzelski has also been credited for his role in ushering in democracy in Poland: he agreed to the first partially free elections in 1989, which brought an end to communism in Poland without any bloodshed.