In response to the heroic act of Marina Ovsjannikova on Russian Television (14 March 2022) I was revisiting some frontrunners who also self-sacrificed themselves for the right cause.
In 1968 an accountant from Dębica, Poland. set himself alight in front of 100,000 people in a major stadium in Warsaw. One month earlier the Soviet Union had led an invasion of Warsaw Pact nations into Czechoslovakia to crush the reforms of Alexander Dubček. This represented a repressing of freedom as well as a kick in the shin for moral in the Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe.
The crushing of the Prague Spring resonated strongly with Ryszard Siwiec, a man who was vehemently anti-Commie. Siwiec spent months putting together a plan for his final attempt to wake Poland up. He acquired a pass to the national harvest festival, a huge annual celebration on September 8, 1968. He had purchased paint thinner as well as preparing a flag with ‘FOR YOUR AND OUR FREEDOM’ inscribed on it. Beforehand, he recorded a political manifesto on tape, criticising Soviet imperialism and the enslavement of nations.
“People, who still have a spark of humanity! Pull yourselves together! Hear my cry! A simple old man’s cry, a cry of a son of a nation that beloved its own freedom as well as freedom of others above all, above its own life! Pull yourselves together! It’s not too late yet!”.
But Siwiec chose the wrong moment. As the First Secretary was giving his speech the crowd was entirely silent, but once the folk dancers began noise had taken over the stadium once more and the orchestra that was playing drowned out his words.
It wasn’t until the spring of 1969 that the truth became known about Siwiec, as Radio Free Europe broadcast the real information on him in the wake of Jan Palach’s self-immolation in Prague in January 1969 (pic 2 shows site) and Jan Zajic one month later (pic 3 shows site).
A final shot in the footage shows him calmly talking, not looking like a man who has attempted to die via setting oneself on fire. As some have hypothesised, four days seems like the right amount of time for a man to be interrogated and receive a bullet in the head.