GB No. 8, summer 1992


Roman Gałuszko - just an ordinary name, and yet it sticks in our memory, like many other names of people, who have refused to do their military service.

A young man of principle had been sentenced to 1,5 years of imprisonment by a military tribunal. As of July 10, 1992 he has been duly serving his time charged with desertion.

Desertion - an ambiguous term indeed. One can be charged with desertion by virtue of going AWOL (in the army jargon: Absent Without Leave), one can also be charged with desertion by refusing to join the army in the first place. This was precisely the case with Romek. He received his call-up papers and duly reported to his Regional Army Headquarters where he officially applied for leave to do the alternative service, as due to his religious principles and outlook he felt unable to comply with the mandatory military service. His initial application was turned down, then the second one, third and forth, all of them.

In April he was served the court summons and subsequently convicted. A series of appeals followed, one to the President himself. The Presidential pardon was supposed to arrive within three days. His only hope now rested with Lech Wałęsa, who once proudly declared that "everyone had the freedom of conscience and belief". When the long awaited letter from the President's Office finally arrived, it carried only a laconic message: "Application refused". So he was finally granted his "freedom of conscience and belief" - in prison.

The picketing organized by all sorts of political movements, federations and associations commenced shortly afterwards in Warsaw and all major Polish cities - to no avail whatsoever, though. The government refused to budge on that one. Despite 90 % of the population being Catholic. But that is a separate issue altogether.

The Polish government then is quite strong in its resolve while the statistics report a disturbingly large incidence of suicides among the young men served with their army call-up papers.

The young men refuse to join the army and prefer to do away with their lives instead, at the same time thegovernment stubbornly refuses to acknowledge their right to refuse a compulsory military service whilst invoking the constitutionally guaranteed principle of "freedom of conscience and personal beliefs". What freedom exactly?

transl. by Sigullum Ltd.

GB No. 8, summer 1992 | Contents