an ordinary man’s cry
Ryszard Siwiec was born on 7th March 1909 in Dębica where he also finished primary school. After his father died, he moved to Lviv with his mother.
First, he continued his education in Jan Długosz secondary school and then in the Humanities Department at Jan Kazimierz University which he graduated from with a Master’s degree in Philosophy. After graduation he started working in the Tax Office in Lviv. In 1936 he moved to the Tax Office in Przemyśl.
The photo of Ryszard Siwiec’s class in Jan Długosz secondary school in Lviv, 1920’sThe collection of the Siwiec family
Summer camp in Petlikowice, near Buczacz, 1926The collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec’s student card from Jan Kazimierz University in LvivThe collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec (first from the right) during his studies in LvivThe collection of the Siwiec family
University timesThe collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec (third from the left) in the armyThe collection of the Siwiec family
With friends, 1920’sThe collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec (from the right), 1930’sThe collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec (standing second from the left) with employees of the Tax Office, Przemyśl, 1937The collection of the Siwiec family
During Nazi occupation he left his job in the office as he didn’t want to, he used to say, collect taxes for the invader. He found a physical job at the urban greenery centre. He was sworn into the ranks of the Home Army and for several months he was hiding in the area of Zbydniów in Tarnobrzeg district. In 1942 he returned to Przemyśl and started working for a wholesome fruit and vegetable company Olff Köpke & Co.
As a physical worker looking after urban greenery in Przemyśl, 1940–1941The collection of the Siwiec family
As a manager of a fruit and vegetable collection point in Przemyśl (sitting), his later wife Maria fourth from the left, 1942–1945The collection of the Siwiec family
As a manager of a fruit and vegetable collection point (second from the left), his later wife Maria sitting first from the left, 1942–1945The collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec’s Arbeitskarte (work card)The collection of the Siwiec family
After the War he rejected a teacher’s post refusing to teach rubbish. From 1946 together with Jan Wojnarowicz he produced wine. After the company was nationalised in 1952 he continued working there but not as a co-owner but an ordinary employee – as a legal adviser and chief accountant. Until his tragic death.
Maria and Ryszard Siwiec’s wedding photograph, 1945The collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec with Stanisław Łącki, a lawyer and friend from Lviv, and his daughters Elżbieta and Innocenta in Lipowica (the outskirts of Przemyśl), 1950’sThe collection of the Siwiec family
Jan Wojnarowicz (first from the left) and Ryszard Siwiec – former co-owners of the Wine and Honey Manufacturing – with employees, August 1959The collection of the Siwiec family
The Siwiec family (from the left: Innocenta, Mariusz, Ryszard, Adam, Elżbieta, Maria) with friends (a 303 Squadron pilot Witold Łukociewski and Mariusz Maciebach) before entering the tenement house in Przemyśl, where the family lived, June 1961The collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec in the castle in Przemyśl, spring 1968The collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec, 1968.The collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec’s last photo, collected from the photographer’s after his deathThe collection of the Siwiec family
Ryszard Siwiec brought up 5 children. His family remembers him as an enlightened man, Catholic and a fervent patriot who cultivated national traditions. He loved literature - his book collection consisted of about 3,000 tomes. He also had an impressive collection of pipes. He was a sportsperson. He was excellent at skiing and swimming. Before the war he used to play hockey in the first team of ‘the Blacks’ in Lviv. For many years he typed leaflets on his own typewriter “Erica” and signed them with his pen name Jan Polak. His daughter Elżbieta who studied in Wrocław used to put them into letter boxes. Ryszard Siwiec never agreed with the political situation after Soviets entered Poland. He refused to accept the communist ideology and the totalitarian system, the symbol of which were the dramatic events on 8th September 1968.
Tadeusz Kamiński (cousin)Ryszard Siwiec being rememebered by his family and a friend
For many years Ryszard was a quiet man. He didn’t reveal his deep thoughts and experiences.
And then after 1960 he suddenly started sharing his thoughts, experiences and feelings with the people around him.
It reminds me of a volcano eruption which is dormant for many years, prepares for and eruption and then suddenly erupts. It was how Ryszard suddenly erupted and started revealing his thoughts.
In 1968 when the Warsaw University students were being beaten with truncheons by the militia and so-called workers, he felt it was his personal failure. He felt insulted and personally completely violated.
Janusz Janiszewski (friend)
I think it was an idée fixe.
That he decided it was his idée fixe, so that – I believe – he could sacrifice and make those Poles who had simply sold out to the government feel guilty. It was his protest.
I believe, I’m convinced from the conversations, it’s very hard to repeat them, but they revolved around one subject which was the atmosphere of the time. The atmosphere of dissatisfaction, slavery, humiliation, social inequity. This might sound cliché but let me tell you, he was a very strong and determined person.
Tadeusz Kamiński (cousin)
He hoped that the whole society through those gathered at the 10th- Anniversary Stadium would understand that the existing regime had to be fought, that hypocrisy and lie had to be fought.
That the Polish cause had to be fought for.
Maria Siwiec (wife)
My husband used to say that God came first, then Homeland and then family. He thought in these terms.
Innocenta Siwiec (daughter)
Father was a very righteous man. Sometimes so righteous that it was difficult to bear.
Adam Siwiec (son)
I imagine that he would have done it again if we could go back in time.
The fragment comes from the documentary by Maciej Drygas ‘Hear My Cry’
His own words recorded the day before he went to Warsaw best convey his intellectual background and beliefs:
Polish nation! We must not allow for the fourth partition of Poland to happen!The fragment of the recording from 7th September 1968.
We must not forget the horrendous crime that happened in Katyń!
We must not allow for our national traditions, culture, history and patriotism to be killed!
Poland can be free and democratic without the intervention and interference from foreign empires.
We must not allow for our Polish mothers” and fathers» faith to be taken away from us!
We must not allow for our wonderful young generation to be poisoned with the venom of foreign ideology which we will never accept!
We must protest against the participation of our forces in invading Czechoslovakia which is not compatible with our national honour!
We must not contribute to the crime of genocide!
We must not allow for the venom of Anti-Semitism to be instilled in us!
Long live free and independent Poland!
You are sending tanks to Czechoslovakia today only because the whole nation is demanding, horror of horrors and eternal shame for 20th century and us – freedom of speech! [...]. Freedom from fear, which means limiting all-powerful security forces. And because they want to build human progressive socialism. Forces representing almost 300 million people invaded 14 millions of Czechs and Slovaks. They openly invaded a small, peaceful country which didn"t put up any resistance. The shame of this act speaks for itself. It will forever remain one of the darkest periods in your history. And you have plenty of such stains. The whole world has already judged you. Everyone has condemned you.
People! People! Wake up! [...] Don"t let them murder you! How is it possible for a group of people to gain total control!? [...]
Hear my cry! An ordinary man"s cry, a son of the nation who loves his and others” freedom more than anything, more than his own life! Come to your senses! It"s not too late!
The fragment of the recording from 7th September 1968.
To authorities and owners of the Soviet Union.The fragment of the recording from 7th September 1968.
To working masses, farmers and workers. To Soviet writers and intellectuals. To young people, the future of all nations.
Lenin said: every nation which subjugates other nations has to fall, it’s nothing new; it’s a common truth, a law of history and development. Do you think that your empire won’t fall because you called this act of subjugating liberation? That you call a lie – the truth, slavery – freedom and absolute tyranny of an irresponsible political clique – democracy? That you called the act of replacing the exploitation of a man by another man with total exploitation by a single monster capitalist, a state, socialism? That you called your fight for world domination – the fight for peace? I’m asking you – why are you convinced that you are the only ones in the history of human kind who will be able to build and maintain an empire built on violence, suffering and injustice? Which nation given a real choice will choose a system based on yours? No nation, no country. Because your system hanging on bayonets and taken to other countries on the Red Army tanks, your system forced upon them and brutally maintained is neither a dictatorship of proletariat, nor communism, socialism or democracy. There is no price that couldn’t be paid for this system not to control the world. People, people, wake up! Young people, the future of the nation, don’t let them murder you every 20 years for different ‘isms’ to come or go, for this or the other group to take control over the world. You, who still haven’t forgotten the most beautiful word in the world – Mother! You, who still might have a spark of humanity, human feelings, come to your senses! Hear my cry, an ordinary, simple man’s cry, a son of the nation, who loved his and your freedom more than anything, more than his own life. Wake up, it’s still not too late.
It comes from the documentary by Maciej Drygas ‘Hear My Cry’