The Polish Pathway to Sovereignty – a story of the Gdańsk Shipyard and Trade Union Solidarity – people, city, transformation

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 point on a map of historical peaceful victories and the place where dreams came true. 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 region which wasn’t controlled by communist party. It had nearly 10 million members.


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 offsprings, about independence. The Gdańsk Shipyard was built in 1945 as a state-owned company. Before that at this place there had been German shipyards, both destroyed in the Second World War.

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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 produced not only ship equipment like cargo ships, fishing vessels, scientific ships, torpedo boats, but also trams and trains. It produced vessels for the navies of USSR, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and East Germany.

A protest led by Lech Wałęsa caused transformations which led to free Poland and destroyed USSR. The Gdańsk shipyard and its workers became a strongly recognisable symbol of unity. Trade Union “Solidarity” achieved its aims by using social movement and the ways of civil resistance. As a result of these actions the politicians agreed to the round table talks, which provided a semi-free elections in 1989. Nowadays the Union Trade “Solidarity” is a well-known movement, but it doesn’t have a strong place in polish politics and the Gdańsk Shipyard produces transport ships, container vessels, offshore boats and other ship equipment. The Poles remeber the past of Trade Union “Solidarity” and the people sacrifice, and therefore in 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 seventeen chambers and The Winter Garden). It was founded as a space 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 fantastic opportunity to come to the city of Gdańsk its magical historical monuments like Artus Court, statue of Neptune and naturally the shipyard and the European Solidarity Centre. It is a wonderful chance to learn the past and think about democracy and independence.