Scholar Interviews

Padraic Kenney: Is there one moment that stands out for you personally?


I’m going to broaden it a little bit and think about an event in the summer of 1988. One day I went down to the center of Wroclaw to observe, take part in a so-called “happening” by the Orange Alternative. This is June 25th or 26th.

Let’s say there were maybe a couple of thousand people on the street that day. These demonstrations had been happening for a year and half roughly and so they were quite common events now. As I looked around the crowd, I could see that it was quite a cross-section of society, certainly lots of students, college students, high school students, but you know, older people, people from all walks of life. There were some speeches being given which were mostly sort of a comic edge because the Orange Alternative was kind of a satirical group. But what was interesting in this event was that the police, the militia rather, did not show up.

Now, in the past, they had and they had detained the organizers. Maybe they were somewhere off on the side, watching things, plainclothes, but they weren’t evidently there.

And the crowd began to chant: “Where are the police? Where are the police?” If we think about what that means, a whole crowd of people in Communist Poland is saying “where are the police?” Well, obviously, they’ve stopped to fear them. So, the fear is completely gone in this particular city at this particular moment. Does Communism still have any teeth left if a crowd can joyously chant “where are the police?”

How to Cite

Padraic Kenney, interview, "Is there one moment that stands out for you personally?." Making the History of 1989, Item #586 (accessed May 28 2021, 3:26 pm)