Solidarity

Solidarity, as the implementation of one of the famous 21 demands of the striKing workers of the Gdańsk Shipyard was created in September 1980 pursuant to the agreement signed there. It was part of the August settlements, an unprecedented contract between the public and the country’s authorities. The way to the agreement was started by a solidary strike at the Gdańsk shipyard, with its workers willing to support their colleague, Anna Walentynowicz, a gantry operator, who was dismissed from work for her socialist and opposition activities. The shipyard strike quickly developed into a country-wide strike, with workers of various industries in Poland joining in. The representatives of Gdańsk Shipyard, which was named after Lenin, gathered in the BHP Hall and established an Inter-works KingStrike Committee, and it quickly grew into a body respected by the communist authorities. Negotiations took a long time and were held in a hostile atmosphere. Their result was a victory for the strikers, as the regime authorities accepted some of the demands of the strikers, including the first one out of 21. It agreed that free trade unions, independent from the State would be created, thus realising the idea of solidarity between the members of society oppressed by the communist system. The social movement gathered a momentum nobody ever expected. The Solidarity logo, designed by Jerzy Janiszewski, remained the symbol of ordinary people fighting for their rights for a long time.

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The trade union registered in Gdańsk held its first gathering in September 1981 in the Olivia hall, and Lech Wałęsa, an electrician, was elected its chairman and leader.

The victory of society over the regime did not last long. The country’s economic situation was rapidly worsening, with renewed strikes and growing political chaos, culminating in the declaration of martial law in December 1981, which stopped the processes started by Solidarity for many long years. These processes could not be stopped completely, and Solidarity went underground for the whole of the 1980’s. as the main opposition organisation, and surfaced again just before the collapse of the communist regime it fought with for long years.

Gdańsk is full of Solidarity references and related places. Next to the previously-mentioned BHP Hall and Olivia Hall, Solidarity Square is a must to see, with its monument to the shipyard workers killed in 1970. Its construction was one of the first three demands of the striKing workers in 1980. The exhibition “Roads to freedom” shows in detail the history of Polish and other nations’ fight for freedom and is located in a Cold-War shelter several hundred metres away from the monument. Behind the monument the European Centre for Solidarity is being constructed. The main reason of the project is to maintain the memory of Solidarity as a historical phenomenon and heralding its character and achievements in Europe and the world. Another must-see on the Solidarity memoir track is the St. Brygid’s Church where opposition activists gathered during martial law and afterwards. There also are gathered various souvenirs of the early Solidarity times can and other opposition.

Gdańsk is a city where several important historical events on a world scale occurred and the events of August 1980 and the creation of Solidarity was definitely one of them. It seems impossible to understand the contemporary history of Poland and Europe without visiting Gdańsk and “solidarity related” places.

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