The Polish Road to Freedom – a tale of the Gdańsk Shipyard and Trade Union Solidarity – people, place, change

The story of the anti-communist democratic opposition in Poland is a big inspiration for many people throughout the world . The Gdańsk Shipyard became a recognisable place on a map of historical peaceful victories and the place where dreams came real. Independent self-governing Trade Union “Solidarity” is a Polish trade union, it was founded on 17 September 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyard under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa. It was the first union trade in Warsaw Pact country which wasn’t controlled by communist party. It had nearly 10 million adherents.


Autor: Comisión Mexicana de Filmaciones
Whole history had started in the shipyard, where people surrounded by ship equipment started to think about their rights, about the future of their children, about independence. The Gdańsk Shipyard was built in 1945 as a state-owned company. Earlier at this place there had been German shipyards, both crushed in the World War II. During the time of People’s Republic of Poland the factory was called Vladimir Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk or Lenin Shipyard (1967-1989). The first ship which was produced in this shipyard was named SS “Sołdek”, it was launched in 1947 (it is now preserved as a museum ship). The company built not only ship equipment like cargo ships, fishing vessels, scientific ships, torpedo boats, but also trams and trains. It built vessels for the navies of USSR, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and East Germany.

A strike led by Lech Wałęsa caused transformations which led to free Poland and destroyed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Gdańsk shipyard and its crew became a wide recognisable symbol of solidarity. Trade Union “Solidarity” achieved its goals by using social movement and the methods of civil opposition. As a result of these actions the government agreed to the round table talks, which provided a semi-free elections in 1989. Now the Union Trade “Solidarity” is a well-known movement, but it doesn’t have a strong position in polish politics and the Gdańsk Shipyard produces transport ships, container vessels, offshore boats and other ship equipment. the Polish nation remeber the past of Trade Union “Solidarity” and the workers sacrifice, and therefore in the city of Gdańsk runs the European Solidarity Centre, which has been opened in 2008 (moderated in 2014).

It is a museum (in its collections are for example the wooden boards with the 21 demands which hung on the gate of the shipyard during the protests of August 1980 or the gantry crane where activist Anna Walentynowicz worked) and a meeting place (it has 17 rooms and The Winter Garden). It was founded as a place of shearing thoughts and worked at children’s and youth projects, theatre productions and film screening, leisure and artistic activities and many other possibilities.

It can be a marvelous opportunity to come to Gdańsk its magical historical monuments like Artus Court, statue of Neptune and naturally the shipyard and the European Solidarity Centre. It is a intersting possibility to learn the past and think about democracy and independence.