Nowa Huta Cross & Riots

Conceived as an ideal socialist city, Nowa Huta was to be atheist by definition and as such its design didn’t designate any urban plots for troublesome churches. As one can imagine, the policy didn’t go over well with the locals who, backed by Bishop Karol Wojtyła - the future Pope JPII, began fighting for a permit to erect a Catholic place of worship right from the get-go. Progress finally came with the political thaw of October 1956: the proper papers and permissions were granted, a site was chosen and soon a large wooden cross was erected and consecrated in the Theatre district. In June 1958, ground was broken for the foundations, but work was promptly halted as the leniency of the communist authorities had apparently expired, and the site was designated for a school. With the intent of removing the consecration cross, the authorities aptly anticipated a conflict after numerous protests and special armed forces were rolled in from all across southern PL. Nowa Huta was officially ‘closed’ and a dense column of military trucks, armoured cars, cannons and machine guns sealed it off from central Kraków, with the only line of communication between the two cities being the taxi drivers who announced that the “revolution in Nowa Huta” had begun. Tensions broke into an all-out street war between police and some 4000 ‘Defenders of the Cross’ on April 27, 1960 and lasted for several days with water cannons, tear gas and dogs unleashed on the civilian protestors.



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