On 22 September 2020, the Independent Students' Association (NZS) is celebrating its 40th anniversary. These were four turbulent decades in the history of Poland. The 1980s in the Polish People's Republic saw strikes at universities and workplaces, as well as martial law and underground activity. The turn of the 1980s and 1990s was a change of the system, the exit from the Soviet domination and Poland’s regaining freedom. From the very beginning, the NZS took part in these historical changes, gathering rebellious people determined to strive for systemic reforms in the country ruled by communists.
On this occasion, the exhibition "NZS - Generations of Changes 1980-2020" has been prepared. The official opening took place on 20 August 2020 in Cracow. So far, the exhibition has been presented in Warsaw, Lublin, Łódź and Katowice. In October it will be on display in Bydgoszcz and Gdynia, and in November it will be presnted in Poznań and Wrocław.
The boards include English-language descriptions.
From the history of the Independent Students' Association
The meeting of the representatives of the Temporary Founding Committees of the Independent Students' Association took place in September 1980 at the Student House of the Warsaw University of Technology, on the initiative of activists from Cracow and Poznań Students' Solidarity Committees and the Academic Intervention Office. The nationwide character of the organization was established and its common statute was drafted. A month later, representatives of the NZS National Founding Committee filed in a request for legalization of the Independent Students' Association with the Provincial Court in Warsaw.
As a result of communist authorities rejecting the request, on 21 January 1981, the longest student occupational strike in Europe began. Forty-seven demands were made concerning the entire community and social issues: first of all, the registration of the NZS, university autonomy, breaking with compulsory study of "political" subjects, freedom of choosing a foreign language class, reforming military classes, prohibiting entry to the campus of the Citizen’s Militia and Security Services officers, ensuring freedom of speech, not repressing for political views, preparing new history textbooks free of forgery, the right to freely celebrate patriotic anniversaries, releasing political prisoners, punishing the Citizen’s Militia and Security Services officers proved guilty of abuses.
On 17 February 1981, the authorities consented to register the NZS, but after the imposition of martial law, the association - like many independent organizations - was banned and its activists began operating underground. In the spring of 1988, Solidarity strikes, combined with various forms of protests led by the NZS, took place in Cracow, Gdańsk and Warsaw in all academic centers of the country. In 1989, new, public authorities of the Association were elected in Gdańsk. The first semester of the 1988/1989 academic year was the period of the most important activities of the NZS at universities. It ended with nationwide January speeches in the fight to amend the Act on Higher Education and re-register the Association.
Today, the NZS operates at approximately 50 universities bringing together approximately 5 thousand students.