Tygodnik Mazowsze

Tygodnik Mazowsze (Mazowsze weekly) was a Polish underground Solidarity newspaper published 1982-1989 and probably the world's largest illegal publishing initiative.

History and organization

Tygodnik Mazowsze No. 2 front page with a tribute to Jerzy Zieleński

The weekly was meant to be published by the regional Solidarity as the union's third fully legal magazine after Jedność and Tygodnik Solidarność. The first issue was almost ready to print when the martial law was imposed December 13, 1981, the free union banned, and chief editor Jerzy Zieleński committed suicide. Tygodnik Mazowsze was thus relaunched in the underground, headed by Helena Łuczywo. The issue of February 11, 1982 was given No. 2 as a tribute to Zieleński and his work.

Almost all underground bulletins in Poland shared the same structure and technology, prepared by a small editorial team using typewriters, then printed with tiny duplicating machines of various types from mimeographs and spirit duplicators to offset. While the editorial work was relatively safe, printing was noisy and required transporting piles of paper as well as the machines, to avoid using the same location too long. Thus, it was relatively easy to be discovered by the Communist police. As the editorial staff often took part in printing, that led to further arrests and often spelled disappearance of the title.

Tygodnik Mazowsze consisted of independent structures: the editorial staff of 8-12 people, the technical group preparing various types of duplicator matrices, and a distribution section. The latter would send the matrices to several printing crews all over the country, usually the same which printed the local bulletins.[1] This allowed to separate all three sections from endangered printing groups and allowed Tygodnik to avoid arrests throughout its existence until 1989, despite being a priority target for the SB secret police and Minister Czesław Kiszczak personally.


A varityper, an electronic justifying typewriter with memory capable of storing a whole issue, gave the bulletin a semi-professional look. It was saved from the Solidarity Warsaw headquarters in the evening of December 12, just minutes before an invasion of the government special forces. Tygodnik was also the first and only to "use color": the Solidarność logo in the front page title was red. However, only few types of duplicators could do it and only by printing each page twice: once in red, then in black, so it was later abandoned.

In 1985, the editorial staff began using personal computers as the first newspaper in both legal and underground circulation in Poland. Next year, the varityper was replaced with software written by a team led by an astrophysician, Mieczysław "Bimon" Prószyński, including Poland's first efficient hyphenating routine. This is particularly complicated in Polish and was achieved by Microsoft Word 15 years later.

The editorial staff was often criticized for "brutal" editing and shortening the interviews and articles, including those by top Solidarity leaders and advisers. Only official statements of the underground union boards were published in extenso. The right-side news column, running through all pages, was edited to contain no adjectives, no interpretations, just the facts. All this led the underground community to say: "What a (small) pole is? A (huge) tree edited by Tygodnik Mazowsze". Jacek Kuroń was among the main victims as his articles had to be shortened by 60-80%.

Due to the number of printing groups it was very hard to estimate the total circulation. Various sources put it between 50,000 and 100,000. Piotr Niemczycki, the distribution section head, based on feedback from these crews, told the editorial staff in late 1984 that the number of printed copies topped 120,000 during the national mourning after Father Jerzy Popiełuszko was murdered by secret police agents.

The last issue, #290, appeared April 12, 1989, after the Round Table Agreement which provided for relegalization of Solidarity and creation of Eastern Europe's first independent daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. Helena Łuczywo became its chief editor, employing most of her editorial staff from Tygodnik Mazowsze.


  1. ^ Olaszek, Jan (2012). "Tygodnik Mazowsze - prasa w konspiracji". Polityka.

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