September 8, 1968
Warsaw, People’s Republic of Poland
Ryszard Siwiec sets himself on fire in protest of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
Siwiec had prepared his self-immolation months in advance and chose a festival to carry out his plan hoping as many people as possible would witness it, as many as 100,000 including journalists and members of the Polish United Workers’ Party.
Though he refused help shouting “I protest!” at those who attempted to assist him, the flames were successfully extinguished. Siwiec remained conscious after the fire and was taken to a hospital where he died of his injuries 4 days later.
Siwiec’s death was largely censored by the government. The media only reported his death as spontaneous combustion, an accident involving drinking vodka while smoking, or as a result of being mentally ill. The truth about Siwiec’s self-immolation was told by his family and friends to an anti-communist organization in Poland during the 1980s. From there, a documentary was made about him in 1991 bringing more attention to his sacrifice, though he remains one of the lesser-known self-immolators.