One of the most penetrating reports circulating in underground bulletins these days is a starkly factual account of life in Pavilion Three of Warsaw's Rakowiecka Prison, the main detention center for Poland's political prisoners.
It was written by Zofia Romeszewska who, along with her husband Zbigniew, was convicted of carrying on union activity during martial law and broadcasting "false information" through a clandestine Radio Solidarity operation.
Asked after her release from jail last week whether she had a message for the West, Romeszewska replied, "I'd like to draw attention to one thing--the lack of status in Poland of political prisoners and the fact that such a place as Rakowiecka exists."
She said she spent 11 months in a small, poorly ventilated cell with three other prisoners. No books, radio or television were allowed--only the Communist Party daily Trybuna Ludu.
Prisoners were beaten for wearing badges with religious or national meaning, she said, and her letters to her husband, who was kept on another floor of the same prison, took six weeks to reach him.
Poor food in the prison caused her to lose 25 pounds, Romeszewska said. In protest against the prison's conditions, she went on a hunger strike in May. Five days later, she was promised a move to a penitentiary for women in Fordon, which she said was a vast improvement over Rakowiecka.
Here are excerpts from Romeszewska's account:
"At night, guards turn on the lights in the cells every hour or more frequently, waking up those asleep. The guards check if everything is in order in the cell. During the day it is prohibited to lie on a bed. The prisoners are obliged to spend 12 hours sitting on hard chairs without backs.
"There is very little room in the cells. Only one person can walk in the cell, making four steps from the window to the door.
"It is generally dark in the cells. The exceptions are a few cells on the third floor whose windows are not shielded by the walls of other prison buildings....
"Once a week towels are changed, and the night sheets once every two weeks . . . . The sheets are gray-brown with stains that are never washed out. The same is true of towels and other linens. All this is disgusting.
"The food is completely without any taste. Served are rotten cabbage and rotten beef . . . bits from pigs ears and pieces of skin with hair . . . .
"Action on complaints takes weeks, even months, and generally settlements do not go in favor of the arrested.... In the end, it is worth quoting a sentence often uttered by the prison personnel: 'You are the arrested; that means you do not have any rights.' "