Stanisław Pyjas

In Brief: Blink and you’d miss it. The memorial plaque to Stanisław Pyjas is a simple affair on the side of a building at ul. Szewska 7

What’s it for? An economics student at the Jagiellonian University, Stanisław Pyjas died aged 24, in mysterious circumstances.  His battered body, according to the official description with long hair and beard, and clad in brown shoes, a yellow shirt, and thick cotton trousers, was found on a staircase in the building on which the plaque was later erected.

Why the mystery? Pyjas was a vocal and active anti-communist – not a save move in 1970s Poland. The official investigation at the time declared that his death was due to a fall whilst drunk, and the results of a post-mortem examination following the exhumation of his body in 2011 found no evidence of foul play. However, nobody is sure exactly how he met his end. A theory still debated in Poland is that he was killed by the secret police.

How did Krakow react? Pyjas’ supporters held a Black March in Kraków – and this was repeated in many other Polish cities. Pyjas’ death was also the trigger for the formation of the Student Committee of Solidarity (Studencki Komitet Solidarności). The SKS included many people still active in post-transformation politics in Poland – among them, the current Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The plot thickens… There is a peculiar twist in this particular tale. One Stanisław Pietraszka , a physics student, close friend of Pyjas, and the last person to see him alive, gave the authorities a description of Pyjas’ possible murderer.  Two months later, Pietraszka’s body was pulled from the Solina Lake in the Bieszczady Mountains. To his friends, this could have been nothing but an accident – they said he suffered from a deep fear of water and would never have gone swimming.

Curiouser and curiouser… Although public opinion leans strongly towards the theory that Pyjas was murdered by the authorities, there is still a question of who actually carried out the killing on their behalf. Enter Marian Weclewicz, a boxer and alcoholic renowned for being as free with his fists in bars as he was in the ring. Weclewicz was named by the Prosecutor in Kraków, in 1993, as a suspect. Evidence suggested he had been paid $20 US to kill Pyjas. But Weclewicz could not be brought to trial… for he too died just a few months after Pyjas. Was his fall from the fourth story of a Kraków kamienica a drunken accident, or something more sinister…?

Bookend biography: Stanisław Pyjas. Born, August 4, 1952, Gilowice, Żywiec. Died May 7, 1977, Kraków.

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