Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Ryszard Siwiec

with 5 comments

On September 8th, 1968, a Polish teacher Ryszard Siwiec attended a traditional Harvest Festival celebration at Warsaw’s Stadion Dziesięciolecia. Dousing himself in petrol, Siwiec set fire to himself in front of the film cameras to protest against communist rule in Central Europe. The stadium was packed with 100,000 spectators, including Polish government officials and representatives from other Warsaw Pact nations.

Siwiec died in a hospital a few days later. The Polish government obfuscated the reasons for his self-immolation, and declared Siwiec was suffering from mental illness. Siwiec was the first of a series of Communist Block citizens to perform self-immolation. His death foreshadowed the more famous self-immolation of Jan Palach in Prague’s Wenceslas Square four months later. Since news about Siwiec’s sacrifice were suppressed, it is doubtful that Palach knew about it and Siwiec’s death became widely known in Czechoslovakia only when Radio Free Europe reported it two months after Palach’s death.

See an incredible footage of this event here. I don’t know how these pictures and footage survived the Communism.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 1, 2010 at 2:52 am

5 Responses

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  1. “survived the Communism”? terrible writing. this site: great.


    June 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm

  2. In that video he seems ridiculously calm for a guy who’s on fire. Even after his clothes are burned off and his skin’s all blistered and mottled, he’s just standing there chatting with the cops. I’ve never been on fire that way myself, but I expected a more dramatic reaction.


    June 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm

  3. Amazing photo and footage – thanks for the link. You are right, it is incredible that this made it out from under the ‘iron curtain’.

    Love the blog, keep up the great work!


    June 1, 2010 at 10:17 pm

  4. The same thing hapenned in Kaunas, former capital of Lithuania, in 1972. Romas Kalanta was the victim (http://lt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romas_Kalanta).


    June 4, 2010 at 2:06 pm

  5. My grandfather was a courageous man.


    July 28, 2011 at 8:52 pm

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