But on 13 December 1981, the Polish government, fearful of Solidarity’s increasing influence, clamped down on its people, proclaimed martial law, imposed curfews and sent in the tanks. Solidarity was banned, its leaders, including Lech Walesa, arrested. When they came for him, Walesa said: “This is the moment of your defeat. These are the last nails in the coffin of communism.”
I remember watching on TV at home: the tanks on the street, the scattering crowds, the frightened faces. Although 17, I could not understand what it all meant. My mother tried to explain, tried to tell me about “freedom” – this thing that I had and had no idea I had it.
I know now but I still don’t really appreciate it. No one can unless they’ve experienced the opposite. It’s similar to trying to explain the full meaning of hunger. We know we’re lucky; we just can’t fathom how lucky.
Read more about the Cold War in The Cold War In An Hour