The Belgian fighters wanted reprisals against Poland. Lubański may have died in an attack

Włodzimierz Lubański in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s he was one of the best strikers in Europe, made him an offer real Madrid, but communist authorities only released Polish footballers to the West after they reached the appropriate age. This is why the ace Górnik left only at the age of 28, in 1975, in Belgium Lokeren. In Belgium, he still managed to become a legend (82 goals in 192 games). His brilliant career, and perhaps even his life, could have been interrupted by the events of December 1978. here the story of the kidnapping attack on Włodzimierz Lubański.

This sequence of events in a film or a series could be presented according to a pattern known in these types of situations: when danger is expected for one person, the threat suddenly falls on someone completely different.

Scene 1 December 12, 1978 is a Tuesday. Shortly before that, Włodzimierz Lubański and his wife turned an apartment into a house in the same neighborhood. Josef Vacenovsky, a former footballer from the Czech Republic, and now one of Lokeren’s coaches, moves into Lokeren’s apartment. The Lubański family changes its domicile, but does not change its landline number. That night, their house phone rings three times.

– I could not find out what was happening because the interlocutor limited himself to a single question: “Is it Lubansky?”. He called for the last time at half past twelve – said Włodzimierz Lubański later (there are discrepancies in the messages about the time of the event, others say at 22).

Scene 2 This time, you no longer hear the phone ringing, but a knock on the door. Two attackers are hiding in front of them. The host’s hand gently opens. At this point, it is unclear whether the confrontation is more surprised by uninvited guests who only strangle the question “Mr. Lubański?” or scared, but aware enough to close the door in no time, Josef Vacenovsky, who looks nothing like Włodzimierz Lubański. We hear five shots, we see blood flowing.

Scene 3 Five minutes after the last call, Włodzimierz Lubański was already in the bedroom, upstairs in his house.

– Suddenly it was as bright as day. Police cars, ambulances, confusion. What the hell? And finally the bell. I open, followed by two very nervous policemen, whom I knew, because they usually formed guards at our matches – the footballer described in the book “Ja, Lubański” written by Krzysztof Wyrzykowski.

– Nothing happened? No one was hurt ? Everything is fine – they asked.

– Of course it’s okay. Everyone is well. And what was to happen – answered Włodzimierz Lubański.

– Włodek, there was an attack. For your old apartment. Vacenovsky was shot.

The Czech’s hand was not injured by the bullet itself, but by a splinter of wood from a perforated door.

– They came determined to kidnap me, I was supposed to be a hostage at the time of the negotiations. One of the gang members was caught smuggling and was locked up in Poland, the other side somehow wanted to force the authorities of our country to let this bully out – Włodzimierz Lubański told ” Dziennik Zachodni”. – I thought about what would happen if I was the coach. I don’t know how it would end, but knowing me, I would certainly leave the apartment without fear and thus expose myself to kidnapping them – admitted Lubański.

Scene 4 Two attackers flee in a white van. They can’t believe their attack failed, after all they checked the address in the phone book and made sure that Włodzimierz Lubański was at home. They can’t believe they’re driving back not in three, with a kidnapped Polish footballer, but only in two. Their intention was precisely to kidnap, which unexpectedly turned into an attack on someone from KSC Lokeren – and the wrong one. And it was the attack that was later mentioned in the media.

Why was Włodzimierz Lubański the target of the attack? In this story, we have to go back to the night of 7 May 8, 1978. Then two members of the organization were arrested in Poland VMO – the Order of Flemish Fighters: Werner Van Steen and Louis Willems. The Belgians tried to smuggle people from the GDR to the West. They were imprisoned by the judgment of the Katowice court. Werner Van Steen was released after a few months. Louis Willems got a heavier sentence, so he remained in jail. And it was the attempt to press for the release of the comrade-in-arms from Polish prison that all the action revolved around.

While the main plan failed, the escape from the site of the alleged kidnapping of Włodzimierz Lubański and the assassination of Josef Vacenovsky – yes. Based on the Czech’s testimony, the police issued an arrest warrant for Werner Van Steen (over time they identified his assistant as Joseph de Jonghe of Ghent), and television showed his photo, with a plea for help in catching the attacker. It did nothing. A week later, on December 19, Werner Van Steen himself sent the letter to the Belgian media. In it, he admitted that he initially wanted to kidnap a Polish diplomat, but concluded that taking a famous footballer hostage would have a better effect. He also announced further acts of violence, and “the action will be fast and tough”.

The Order of Flemish Fighters and the inmate’s wife Willems dissociated themselves from the aggressor. In a letter sent to the Consulate of the Polish People’s Republic in Brussels, later quoted by the Polish News Agency, she writes:

On December 22, Werner Van Steen once again showed that he is both very dangerous and completely unpredictable.. He organizes an ultra-fast press conference, of which only two journalists are informed. Van Steen had it in front of him Grenade. And De Jonghe from time to time he brandished his pistol. They both managed to evade the police again. They surrendered on December 26, 1978, the second day of Christmas. After a Christmas meal with Bert Eriksson, the head of VMO, they reported to the police station.

On May 23, 1979, a speedy trial lasting several hours took place for those accused of trying to kidnap Włodzimierz Lubański and shoot Josef Vacenovsky.

“The two defendants pleaded guilty and van Steen testified that he was the initiator of the action. The court sentenced them to only 30 months in prison, including 20 months suspended, and to fines of 8,000 francs everyone,” the Polish news agency reported.

Werner Van Steen, after his release from prison, became one of the most important people in the VMO, and over time also the leader of another mutation of this organization. An organization mentioned by a Belgian anti-fascist blog “had more to do with the biggest thugs in Flanders than with the nonsense it proclaimed about the unification of Flanders and the Netherlands”. Van Steen participated in the burning of Turkish restaurants, destroyed the famous Bruges bell and tried to contact the Ku Klux Klan, which was prevented by the FBI.

The Order of Flemish Fighters has dissolved and reformed several times. In May 1987, Werner Van Steen wrote a program for VMO in which he demanded that all immigrants leave the Benelux. When Dutch actress and Surinamese TV star Alida Neslo was on stage at the Grote Markt in Brussels on July 11, 1987, a group of VMO tried to chase her, shouting about a “black prostitute” and a “returning monkey” for trees”, and the slogans of “white power” were accompanied by a Nazi salute. The “New Encyclopedia of the Flemish Movement” describes Van Steen as “a character who was not interested in the Flemish cause, but showed great interest in the neo-Nazis”. The Order of Flemish Fighters finally ceased to function at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s.

Werner Van Steen, the would-be kidnapper of Włodzimierz Lubański, died on March 19, 2022, aged 72.

Game Belgium – Poland in Nations League Wednesdays at 8:45 p.m., broadcast on Polsace Sport Premium 1 and on Polsat Go box. Live broadcast of the match Belgium – Poland and video highlights of all Nations League matches on Sport.Interia.pl.

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