Protestors carried Wiśniewski’s body through the streets of Gdynia on a door and this image was to become one of the most striking of the decades of unrest in Poland. The young man had been shot 3 times and his blood-stained body was to become a symbol representing all of the victims of this unrest. The body was actually that of an 18-year old man named Zbigniew Godlewski from nearby Elbląg who was employed in the shipyards in Gdynia. At the time the body was being carried through the streets people were still unclear as to his true identity and a local songwriter, Krzysztof Dowigałło, penned a ballad to this unknown victim whom he named with a common name - Janek Wiśniewski. The ballad became a popular protest song and the young man became a legend.
The body of the young man was originally buried in Gdańsk Oliwa before his family managed to get him moved to his home-town of Elbląg. After the fall of communism, streets in both Gdynia and Gdańsk were renamed after the fictional character of Janek Wiśniewski while streets in his hometown of Elbląg and Zielona Gora, where he spent his childhood holidays, were renamed after the real person of Zbigniew Godlewski. The story of Wiśniewski was told in the 1981 film Man of Iron and the events are also retold in the 2011 film Czarny Czwartek (Black Thursday).
The last verse of the Ballad of Janek Wiśniewski gives you an idea of the power of the ballad inspired by this young man from Elbląg.
Don't cry mothers, it wasn't for naught
There's a flag with black ribbon over the shipyard
For bread and freedom, and a new Poland
Janek Wiśniewski fell