June 28, 1956

The youngest victim of the Poznań Uprising

The Poznań Uprising of June 1956 is considered one of the precursors of the 1956 Revolution, and sympathy for developments in Poland was one of the driving forces for the marches that took place in Budapest on October 23rd, which is why the statue of Józef Bem was the destination. Bem, of course, was the Polish general who had fought alongside and led Hungarian units during the 1848-1849 Revolution and failed War of Independence.

On June 28, 1956, a protest in Poznań took place, where the Polish workers took to the streets to protest their low wages and rising production quotas (production quotas existed throughout the Eastern Bloc), which were unsustainable. The protest soon spread throughout the city, and it took Soviet troops three days to restore order. It was under these circumstances that a 13-year-old boy, Romek Strzałkowski was also shot, who thereby became the youngest victim of the uprising. Regarding the tragic event, we can learn the most from the words of the lawyer M. Grzegorzewicz, who spoke at a trial while discussing the cases of youths who, using weapons that they had obtained from a local police station, attacked the Security Office building that was the local branch of the Ministry of the Interior. As Grzegorzewicz recalled:

“Three women workers from the city tram network stood before the Security Office building holding the national flag in their hands. Then there was a round of gunfire. Two of the women collapsed and the flag fell to the ground. But only for a moment, for a young boy appeared, lifted the flag and opened it before the crowd numbering in the thousands. It was a moving scene. Such as when oil is poured onto a fire. Emotions swelled up and it again seemed that things might get out of control. That young boy dressed in gray was the 13-year-old Romek Strzałkowski. Here are his clothes; his mother’s last memories of him.” When the lawyer raised the boy’s shirt that had been pierced by a bullet, many in the room became teary-eyed. Those present remember the shock when the news spread like wildfire that children had been fired upon. Many eyewitnesses watched as they tumbled to the ground, and lifting them up, they carried them to a safe place. Hate for those who had fired upon the youngest residents of the city erupted, as seemingly everyone recalled the boy and his heartbreaking bravery that encouraged the crowd against the communists inside the Security Office.

On May 5, 2016, a plaque was erected in Romek Strzałkowski’s memory on the wall of a Budapest high school. The dedication featured speeches by László Köver, the speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary, Marek Tadeusz Kuchciński, the speaker of the Polish Sejm, and Réka Földváryné Kiss, chairperson of the Committee of National Remembrance.

Bence Csatári