Title: An ordinary man, a national hero, a Polish Palach? : some thoughts on the memorialization of Ryszard Siwiec in the Czech-Polish context


Stach, Sabine

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Article : original article


Acta Poloniae Historica. T. 113 (2016) ; Studies


Gilley, Christopher. Ed. ; Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences


Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Place of publishing:



p. 295-313


On 8 September 1968, Ryszard Siwiec set fi re to himself during a harvest festival in the 10th Anniversary Stadium in Warsaw. Through his self-immolation, he sought to protest against Communist rule in general and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in particular. However, his death did not gain wider attention. Further protests ‘by fi re’ took place in the subsequent months and years in East Central Europe. Among them was the self-immolation by the Czech student Jan Palach in Prague. In contrast to Siwiec, this young man was immediately recognized as a martyr in Czechoslovakia as well as on the other side of the Iron Curtain. It was only after 1989 that Ryszard Siwiec’s story became increasingly well-known. Today, his act still remains in the shadow of Palach’s, however. This article deals with the marginal position of Siwiec in the Polish national pantheon. By reflecting on the various constraints on creating martyrs in state and post-socialism, it focuses on one particular aspect of Polish and Czech – or rather Polish-Czech – memory politics. As for the ‘Polish Palach’ Ryszard Siwiec, the paper demonstrates that Czechs have played a crucial role in popularizing him.


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Acta Poloniae Historica



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oai:rcin.org.pl:61394 ; oai:rcin.org.pl:61394 ; 2450-8462


IH PAN, sygn. A.295 Podr. ; IH PAN, sygn. A.296 ; click here to follow the link




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