President Andrzej Duda in the afternoon traveled to the large industrial city 300 km south of Warsaw to mark the 40th anniversary of the bloody crackdown, which left nine miners dead and more than 20 wounded on December 16, 1981.
Speaking at a ceremony in front of the Wujek mine, the scene of an open clash between riot police and strikers 40 years ago, Duda said that the protesting miners "did not die in vain" but "gave their lives for a free Poland."
He added that the miners' protest "against martial law, against the enslavement of the people by the authorities ... against the communists, was not just a strike by workers demanding better working conditions and higher wages ... but a strike for freedom, for a truly independent and sovereign country."
A monument to nine coal miners killed by communist riot police on December 16, 1981 in Katowice, southern Poland. Photo: PAP/Andrzej Grygiel
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a Facebook post that the victims of communist terror decades ago should never be forgotten.
"We have not forgotten and pay tribute every year on the anniversary of those crimes," he wrote.
His office tweeted that the 1981 crackdown at the Wujek mine in Katowice was the deadliest incident in communist-era Poland during its martial law period of 1981-1983.
Miners from the Wujek coal mine in Katowice went on strike on December 13 1981, the day that martial law was declared by Poland’s communist authorities to stifle rising opposition headed by the Solidarity movement.
The strikers called for an end to martial law, during which the authorities brought tanks to the streets, cut telephone lines and introduced a strict curfew.
The strike was brutally suppressed by a special platoon in the communist riot police which opened fire on the miners.
Monday, December 13, marked 40 years since Poland's former communist authorities imposed martial law.