Videos on satellite orbits  –  videos by mike gruntman          books by mike gruntman  –  Mike's books

Mike's short courses on space systems

Extracurricular affairs in Poland

NSZZ Solidarity. Tear gas and ZOMO in Gdansk in 1984.

Extracurricular affairs in Poland

NSZZ Solidarity. Tear gas and ZOMO in Gdansk in 1984.

Excerpts from

my 15 years at iki by mike gruntman

My Fifteen Years at IKI, the Space Research Institute:

Position-Sensitive Detectors and Energetic Neutral Atoms Behind the Iron Curtain

Interstellar Trail Press, 2022. ISBN 979-8985668704

detailed book content    paperback    Kindle    book preview

Chapter 9. ENA Experiment That Never Was

Extracurricular affairs in Poland (pp. 203-208)

My trips to Warsaw for joint work on GAS experiment typically lasted one or two weeks, with Grzedzielski’s Space Research Center being a hospitable host (Fig. 9.7). The visits also opened a window to a new world. In Warsaw, one could see American movies that did not reach the Soviet Union. At a flea market, it was possible to find books by Orwell and Solzhenitsyn in English, banned in the Soviet Union. Polish newspapers also enjoyed more freedom than their counterparts in Moscow. Reading and speaking a little bit of Polish opened many doors.

When we ramped up work with the Warsaw colleagues, Poland was under martial law imposed by General Wojciech Jaruzelski in December 1981. Polish communists tried to preserve the regime and crush the existential threat from the Solidarnosc (Solidarity) trade union movement. Very quickly I befriended activists of the underground Solidarity in Warsaw, including those who had been arrested by the security forces on the night of the military takeover. The authorities released many of them after several months in detention camps.

When I was in Warsaw on one of my trips ...
[o]n Sunday morning [December 16, 1984] I took a train to the city of Gdansk on the Baltic coast for a day of sightseeing. It was a three-hour ride.

Gdansk was the birthplace and a major stronghold of the NSZZ SolidarnoϾ (Fig. 9.8). NSZZ stood for Niezalezny Samorzadny Zwiazek Zawodowy (Independent Self-Governing Trade Union in Polish). My friends suggested arranging a brief meeting in Gdansk with the Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who had been released from prison two years earlier in November 1982. Walesa would later become the first, after World War II, freely elected Polish president, from 1990-1995.

Fortunately, I did not view myself as important and the meeting did not take place. It was a wise decision since the agents of state security and informers certainly saturated Walesa’s surroundings and monitored his every step. [16] ([16] - Declassified Polish state archives show today that some leaders of the Solidarity trade union and its active supporters collaborated under coercive pressure with the Polish Security Service. The degree of collaboration, duration, and other details remain murky.) Chances were that I would have been flown from Warsaw, figuratively speaking, straight to Siberia rather than return to Moscow.

One can only speculate about a possible impact of such a not-unlikely career-ending turn of events on the advancement of ENA imaging, particularly on mapping of the interstellar boundary.

IKI 15 pages 203-208

My sightseeing trip brought me to the right place at the right time. Or, depending on perspective, to the wrong place at the wrong time. That day, December 16, 1984, would witness major clashes between the anticommunist protesters and riot police using "tear gas, riot sticks, and smoke bombs ... to disperse supporters of the banned Solidarity... At least 12 people were reported detained... [And] several people in the crowd were beaten by policemen who charged into the throng."17

Only 1600 ft (500 m) away from the Gdansk railroad station, I ran into and joined a large crowd around St. Bridget's Church in the city center. Its priest and a staunch supporter of Solidarity, Father Henryk Jankowski, provided sanctuary to trade union leaders. Elements in the Catholic Church had been playing a major role in spiritual resistance to communists throughout Poland for decades. Underground activists often used the holy masses as starting points for political events.

On that December day, a few thousand people pressed to the entrance waiting for the mass to end. Then, several Solidarity leaders exited the church. I recognized Walesa. A person next to me pointed at another leader, Andrzej Gwiazda, [18] arrested in December 1981. Gwiazda spent more than two years in prison and was released on amnesty only a few months earlier.

The people began chanting anti-communist slogans and the names of the trade union leaders, especially of Walesa and Zbigniew Bujak. [19] Bujak avoided arrest in December 1981 and headed the outlawed Solidarity operating underground. The government would capture him only in 1986. The crowd periodically broke into chanting "Nie ma wolnosci bez Solidarnosci" ("There is no freedom without Solidarity [trade union]").

Then, we headed towards the Three Crosses (Trzy Krzyzy) monument 2000 ft (600 m) away. I could say "we" because by that time I had become part of the protest, had turned into an active participant, and was marching with the gathered men and women.

The Three Crosses stood next to the entrance to the Lenin Shipyard, where the activists formed the Solidarity Trade Union in 1980. The monument commemorated the shipyard workers killed by the communist government forces during unrest 14 years ago in 1970.

The infamous brutal paramilitary police, ZOMO, blocked the passage to the Three Crosses. ZOMO stood for Zmotoryzowane Odwody Milicji Obywatelskiej in Polish, or Motorized Reserves of the Citizens' Militia. These units played the role of special forces of the police.

Clashes ensued, with the paramilitary police repeatedly charging the crowd and attacking people with batons and tear gas. For the first time in my life, I tasted tear gas in the middle of the scuffle. At one moment I was also close to getting hit by police batons. Security agents detained Gwiazda and he would spend the next five months in prison again.

Walesa tried to bring flowers to the monument, but the police stopped him. The New York Times described that

[w]ords were exchanged [with the police line] and witnesses said there was more elbowing and some shoving. Mr. Walesa, reportedly looking disgusted, put his flowers at the feet of the police and withdrew. [20]

The Wall Street Journal also summarized what happened on that day,

Solidarity founder and Nobel peace laureate Walesa and about 3000 backers of the outlawed [Solidarity] union were marching to mark security forces’ killing of shipyard workers 14 years ago in riots over food price rises. Police prevented the protesters from reaching a monument to the slain workers and detained over a dozen people. It was described as the worst clash in Poland in a year. [21]

This was wintertime, and most people wore clothing of dark colors. In contrast, I had my new synthetic winter jacket of whitish color (Fig. 9.9) which clearly stood out. I still remember that I then thought about officers of the Polish internal security service who would later review the photographs of the demonstration participants and try to identify that new, unfamiliar guy in a white jacket, shouting and raising his fist. Socialist countries were poor by Western standards, and people wore the same clothing for many years. So subsequently, my whitish winter jacket would get “involved” in another protest story several years later (Chapter 11).

In the early evening, I took a train back to Warsaw. The Gdansk contacts of my Solidarity friends knew my itinerary. They came to the railroad station to check on me after the clashes with the riot police and arrests. The new friends in Gdansk worried for my safety and were happy to see me in one piece and in good spirits. They brought me sandwiches for the return trip and waved goodbye. Good people.


Many years later, I attended a meeting at Stanford University. I flew in early and spent several hours at Hoover Institution. Its library and archives hold probably the only comprehensive collection of Mazovia Weekly (Tygodnik Mazowsze) in the United States. During the period of martial law and thereafter, this was an influential underground publication by the banned Solidarity operating in Mazovia, the central region of Poland that included Warsaw.

During one of my trips to Poland, I took my saved per diem paid by the USSR Academy of Sciences and passed it to the underground Solidarity. It was ironic and satisfying to give communist-state-provided money to an anti-Soviet movement. Every issue of Tygodnik Mazowsze published confirmations of the funds received by the outlawed trade union, usually listing a code name, a nom de guerre, of the donor and the amount of money. I believe that I found the cryptic entry confirming my contribution.


Recommended science and engineering books on astronautics, rocketry, and space technology


Recommended missile defense books


Recommended books on history of astronautics, rocketry, and space

Make the World a Better Place

essential library on Israel history

rocket equation coffee mug for rocket scientists rocket equation mousepad for rocket scientists rocket equation T-shirt for rocket scientists missile defense baikonur launch site tyuratam missile range mouse pad baikonur launch site tyuratam missile range coffee mug yes-to-engineering sticker for rocket scientists

other rocket science items