Aim: The purpose of this article is to describe the strike at the Main School of Fire Service in Warsaw, which took place in November 1981 and was the largest fire service protest in the history of the Polish People’s Republic.

Methodology: With a view to presenting the subject-matter of the article, reference was made to the literature describing the protest in question (including articles, published memories and collections of documents), archival materials (produced by students themselves, as well as by the authorities of the Polish People’s Republic and by the Independent Self-Governing Labour Union “Solidarity”), and eyewitness accounts. Press articles also formed important source materials, especially those published by the Union press. It is worth stressing that some of these materials had never been used for that purpose before, which made it possible to elaborate on some issues related to the cadets’ protest.

Conclusions: At the end of 1981, the cadets of the Main School of Fire Service organised a strike to defend the status of their school. They refused to agree to converting their institution from a civilian school (though subordinated to the Ministry of the Interior) into a military one, fearing that they could then be used as a military force to fight against protesters. On the one hand, it was one of the numerous students’ protests taking place in 1981, but, on the other hand, it seemed completely different, mainly because it concerned uniformed services. Unfortunately, the cadets’ protest was treated by the authorities of the Polish People’s as an attack on the Ministry of the Interior, to which the Main School of Fire Service was subordinated. The strike had no chance of success, just like the attempts at creating trade unions at the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry would not allow it, as it wanted to remain a monolith and a faithful servant of the Communist government. The support offered by the authorities of the Independent Self-Governing Labour Union “Solidarity”, as well as by Warsaw residents, who showed much kindness to the young cadets, could hardly change that. Undoubtedly, the strike at the Main School of Fire Service was an important event in the period referred to as the Carnival of Solidarity, especially for the teaching staff and students. It also marked a major event in the history of Poland.

Keywords: strike, Main School of Fire Service, Polish People’s Republic, Independent Self-Governing Labour Union “Solidarity”, authorities, conflict, higher education

Type of article: review article