It is dedicated to the most recent history of Poland from the years 1956-1989, with particular stress on the role of “Solidarity”. It is a seed of the museum planned for creation in the facilities of the former shipyard, and it will be one of the parts of the European Centre of Solidarity.
In August 1980, the former Lenin Gdańsk Shipyard was the birthplace of “Solidarity”, a social movement, which gave the Polish population hope of fulfilling their dreams of independence. The 18 days of strikes in 1980, which was concluded on 31 August with the signing of the agreements between the striking people and the Government, became a symbolic date of the beginning of the end of communism in Europe.
The “Road to Freedom” Exhibition tells of the people who wanted to make their dreams of independence for Poles living in PRL a reality. This exhibition is dedicated to them. The decisions of the Yalta conference in 1945 meant the liquidation of the Second Republic of Poland, while the formation of the new State was practically given to Stalin. Although western Europe deemed the Yalta treaty as necessary, Poland never came to terms with it. After the war, the population demonstrated its love of freedom numerous times.
The exhibition is composed of seven thematic rooms:
ROOM 1 – THE EVERYDAY LIFE OF THE POLISH PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC
The grocery store is a recreated primitive store and short of merchandise from the nineteen seventies. This symbolic store is a good opportunity to recall the currently often idealised reality of Polish life under socialism.
ROOM 2 – HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION
The period of the People’s Poland was also a time of great political repressions. During the fifties, the prison became the symbol of being a communist country. The reconstruction of the prison cells reminds us of the political prisoners of that period. It is also a symbol of the times when a trip outside the soviet bloc was almost a miracle, while the average citizen was fed with information that the socialist system was the only one guaranteeing prosperity. The computer stations thematically group the successive stages in the fight for freedom and civil rights prior to August 1980.
ROOM 3 – AUGUST 14.08.1980 – 31.08.1980
We enter the room through the flowery, historical gate of the Gdańsk Shipyard. On the way, we will encounter the bust of Lenin, whose name was carried by the shipyard.
The video and slides present 18 days of the strike, the events which had great impact all over the world and became the symbolic beginning of the fall of communism in Europe. The wooden plaques with the hand-written 21 strike postulates were entered into the UNESCO Global Documentation Heritage List entitled “Memory of the World” on 16 October 2003. The “August 1980” room holds the history of the “Solidarity” graphic symbol, created by Gdańsk graphic artist Jerzy Janiszewski, a logo recognised all over the world. The place of negotiation of the representatives of the Wybrzeże plant and the Government has also been opened (the BHP room).
ROOM 4 – SOLIDARITY AND HOPE 01.09.1980-12.12.1981
The legal operations of “Solidarity” lasted 16 months. The generation, which had a breath of freedom, refers to this period with sentiment – it was a carnival. In 1980, ten million Poles signed up with the new union, while artistic and social life blossomed.
ROOM 5 – MARTIAL LAW 13.12.1981-22.07.1983
On 13 December 1981, the communist authorities declared war on their own nation. In order to understand the sinister sense of the communist propaganda of the time, you can listen to the proclamation of General W. Jaruzelski, fragments of the conference of J. Urban, the Government spokesman of the time. The slides show the street battles of the Polish nation with the authority imposed upon them. The showcases host primitively-produced stickers and signs, showing that “Solidarity lives on”. We can also listen to fragments of the sermons of the priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, the Solidarity chaplain, who was murdered in 1984 by the security service. A special room hosts the recreated underground print works. The period of martial law is concluded with a 6-minute moving video, complemented by the surrounding militia and ZOMO equipment, which was used to disperse the street demonstrations.
ROOM 6 – VIDEO RETROSPECTION
The video retrospection is a 7-minute review of archive videos relating to the outbreaks of social dissatisfaction during various historical periods between the years 1956 and 1989. The film ends with the June 1989 election and the appointment of the first non-communist Government led by Tadeusz Mazowiecki.
ROOM 7 – TIME OF CHANGES
This is the name of the last room, which presents a video on the time of the transformations in the countries of central and eastern Europe, which began in the June of 1989 in Poland. 4 June 1989 was the date of the first free senate and contractual Parliament elections. This event began the so-called echo effect, i.e. the proclamation of independence by individual central and eastern European countries. The room also offers timed exhibitions, which indirectly refers to the entire “Road to Freedom” exhibition.