The capture of Zbigniew Bujak by Polish security authorities, disclosed in Warsaw Saturday, is a serious blow to the Polish underground movement. He was the last of the banned Solidarity trade union's elusive fugitives -- one of a handful of determined activists who escaped the police net in December 1981, when the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski instituted military rule.
By the spring of 1982, Mr. Bujak and his associates had set up a provisional nationwide coordinating committee to preserve the Solidarity underground until it could regain an open place in a politically reformed Polish society.
But one by one over the last two years the police apprehended the leading militants from former regional strongholds such as Gdansk and Wroclaw. Finally, only Bujak -- the one-time leader of another key region, Warsaw -- remained at large.
His capture is a considerable coup for the regime and a serious setback for Solidarity. The authorities will undoubtedly make much of the arrest, as they move even harder to destroy any lingering remnants of Solidarity-inspired opposition.
With the passage of time and the wearing effect of the nation's continued economic difficulties on the public at large, Solidarity's ability to rouse active public support for its efforts had steadily diminished.
But widespread sympathy was still commanded either by Lech Walesa, its first national chairman, or by men like Zbigniew Bujak in their regional constituencies.
This latest blow to the organization, however, will inevitably discourage any remaining climate for active opposition.
Bujak was not only the underground's last major survivor. At 32 years of age, he was also one of Solidarity's youngest remaining figures. Even before the martial-law crackdown, he had emerged as one of its really colorful and dynamic personalities.
From his founding-father role in the big Warsaw Ursus tractor plant, where he was an engineer, he became a national figure. He had a big following among industrial workers in the Warsaw region.
Two of his last associates have been in jail since last year, awaiting charges.
No details of the circumstances of his own seizure by the police have so far been given.
But the arrest announcement indicated that Bujak will face charges of seeking to overthrow the constitutional order under Poland's communist system. Such charges carry extremely heavy sentences. The authorities, however, may be expected to proceed with some circumspection -- partly because of international opinion (at a time when they still are seeking more normal relations with the West) and partly because undue severity could well rekindle the old pro-Solidarity feelings and renew passive protest in the factories, shipyards, and mines.