Remembering anti-communist protester who set himself ablaze 50 years ago
PR dla Zagranicy
Media reports have noted the death 50 years ago of a former Polish Home Army soldier who doused himself in paint thinner and set himself on fire in protest of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Ryszard Siwiec. Photo: National Institute of Remembrance/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)
On the night of August 20, 1968, Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia to put a stop to liberal reforms.
Less than three weeks later, 59-year-old Ryszard Siwiec protested the move by setting himself ablaze during an official harvest festival in central Warsaw, where some 100,000 people had gathered.
Before setting himself on fire on September 8, 1968 – an idea he may have borrowed from monks protesting against the Vietnam War – he wrote his will and recorded an anti-communist manifesto which ended with the words: “Hear my cry, the cry … of a man who loved his own freedom and that of others more than anything else, more than his own life.”
A fierce opponent of the regime in Poland, he left his wife a letter in which he said: “Forgive me, it could not have been any other way.”
Siwiec died in hospital four days after later.
But his protest went largely unnoticed. The authorities said Siwiec was mentally ill and film footage of Siwiec in flames did not emerge until after the fall of communism.
He was posthumously awarded Czech, Slovak and Polish state distinctions.
Source: TVP Info