Solidarity, Poland’s road to freedom
The 1980 Gdańsk Agreement marked a milestone in Poland’s history: it gave workers the right to strike and to form unions independent of the Communist Party. And so the ten-million strong trade union “Solidarność” came to be. To mark the 40th anniversary of its birth, the iconic “Solidarność” logo has been placed at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, and a multimedia event “Roads to Freedom” was held in Brussels on 6 October 2021.
The 1980 strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk set off a wave of protests across Poland and soon more than a million workers were on strike in support of the 21 demands of the Interfactory Strike Committee. It led to a historic agreement between Polish workers and the communist authorities being signed in Gdańsk, which gave birth to NSZZ „Solidarność, the Independent Self-governing Labour Union „Solidarność”, the first trade union in a Warsaw Pact country that was not state-controlled, and the world’s largest to date. Nine years later, in 1989, communism collapsed in Poland, and within six months – the famous Berlin Wall did too.
The Solidarity movement embodied the hopes of millions of Poles for a better and autonomous life, for freedom. It was an expression of their shared determination to reclaim control of their destiny and to rejoin the family of democratic states, from which Poles had been cut off for years by the Iron Curtain.
41 years on, Poles still carry a “Solidarity gene” in their DNA. They remember that in the dark days of communist rule many countries from across the world came to their aid, financially and spiritually. Today, Poles pay back the debt by assisting others: partners in Europe, including Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and the Western Balkan countries, as well as countries in Africa and the Middle East. Polish communities worldwide have also spontaneously shown their solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic by helping locally those most affected by the pandemic.
Solidarity changed Poland and all of Europe. Not long after the collapse of communism, Poland became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. To mark the 40th anniversary of its birth, the iconic “Solidarność” logo was placed at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels. “We couldn’t think of a better place for this symbol than at NATO, where 30 Allies demonstrate daily what solidarity and unity mean”, Poland’s Permanent Representative to NATO said back in 2020.
As part of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the birth of “Solidarność”, on 6 October 2021 the Polish Cultural Institute in Brussels and the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Poland to NATO organised a multimedia event “Roads to Freedom” featuring a live concert by Lombard, a Polish pop-rock band founded in 1981 and known throughout the 1980s for their protest songs, as well as musicians from the Czech Republic, Germany, Ukraine and Belarus. It portrayed the history of the Polish Solidarity movement and Poland’s road (back) to democracy. It was also intended to go back in time to the Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine, and to draw attention to the democratic aspirations of the Belarusians, to give voice to their desire for change.
Link to the official recording coming soon!
The historic narrative of this multimedia event was developed in consultations with Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance and the Centre for Eastern Studies. The Polish Institutes in Prague and Minsk closely collaborated on programming the video contributions of bards from the neighbouring countries: Vladimir Merta (Czechia), Stephan Krawczyk (Germany), Taras Kompanichenko (Ukraine), Andrei Khadanovich (Belarus).
Introductory remarks were delivered by the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Poland to the North Atlantic Council Ambassador Tomasz Szatkowski, and NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Ambassador Baiba Braže.
Due to the pandemic, the event was postponed to 2021.