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History of the Solidarity Movement

Szczecin – December 1970

The history of the great social transformation in Central and Eastern Europe starts with protests which shook the East Block. The first riots (Germany 1954, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Poland 1970 and 1976) let to bloodshed and were ruthlessly put to an end.

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Szczecin – December 1970 – march of shipyard workers towards Headquarters of Communist Party

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Szczecin – December 1970 – scope of social protest and related riots

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Szczecin – December 1970 – burning Headquarters of Communist Party at Żołnierza Square set ablaze by protesting shipyard workers

The protest was steadily growing in the largest company in Szczecin. Finally, on Thursday 17 December 1970, in the morning, desperate shipyard workers marched together towards the city centre to the Regional Headquarters of the Communist Party. Riots led to setting fire at the building and the crowd moved towards the Headquarters of Police situated in the vicinity to storm the building. Shortly, the situation took a dramatic turn. Bullets were shot and the first participants of the demonstration died or got injured. Militia and security officers were shooting randomly and totally innocent people got hit, including people who stayed at home due to the curfew. The death toll has not been finally calculated until today...

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Szczecin – December 1970 – first fights with militia at Party Headquarters at Małopolska Street, which quickly turned into open bloodshed (below)

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In 2005, at the same venue, the City of Szczecin helped establishing a monument commemorating victims of December 1970.

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Szczecin, 11 January 1971 – another strike at Shipyard, people waiting for arrival of E. Gierek, First Secretary of Communist Party.

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Szczecin, December 1970 – one of strike posters

Szczecin - August 1980

The government wanted everyone to forget the December tragedy, the people not! In August 1980, when local communities at the Polish coast in Gdańsk and Szczecin showed that it was possible to oppose successfully the totalitarian government, they recalled the memory of workers victims of 1970 protests. In Gdańsk, Gdynia and Szczecin, people remembered the bloodshed of December 1970. It resulted in a new line of social resistance during a huge wave of strikes which shook Poland in August 1980.

Apart from economic requests, as expected by the government, people started demanding FREEDOM:

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Szczecin – August 1980: Requests of Strike Committee at Gate of A. Warski Shipyard

The August strikes, which spread all over the country, led to a new social movement – stronger and more determined than the governing communist party. It was given the name of SOLIDARNOŚĆ (Solidarity). During 10 years which followed its typical logo of clear origin became a sign of guilty conscience for the government, and for Poles a sign of hope for changes to come; it was just a question of time...

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The Independent and Self-governed Trade Union Solidarity

Despite all effort made by the then government, the INDEPENDENT AND SELF-GOVERNED TRADE UNION SOLIDARITY  was established and registered as a result of workers protests. It made the words of Jacek Kaczmarski ballad come true; these words can be translated as follows 'And the walls will fall down and burry the old world...'.

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People developed strength and hope which helped them surviving through the martial law period, attacks on trade union activists and rebuilding damaged by repressions structures of the Free Trade Union and political factions and groupings growing around the Trade Union. The movement stimulated deep thinking among members of the totalitarian government which was approaching its end. They understood that bayonets could be used to make their way through, but not to rule the society, especially that they had already lost authority and trust. The round table talks and resulting from them elections to the contractual Sejm and Senate of 5th June 1989, despite complex regulations, became a plebiscite showing whom the society was willing to support. Poles chose SOLIDARNOŚĆ.

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The name itself clearly associated with the logo of SOLIDARNOŚĆ, and the latest history of Poland and Europe is still perceived as a source of strong force which changed the political map of Central and Eastern Europe and turned it into the Europe of Free Nations.

All the changes, especially the development of 1970 at the Polish coast and strikes of August 1980, were possible due to a major contribution of Szczecin and its inhabitants.

Invitations to today's event include a quotation from the legendary writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

"...he looked at employees of his office, as well as workers, mechanics, pilots, all those who helped him with faith of a builder. He thought about towns of past centuries reached by news about the existence of happy islands.

A ship was build to be loaded with hope, so people could see how their hope was setting sails at the open sea...

Thanks to that ship everything is growing, overcomes barriers and liberates itself. The goal perhaps does not explain anything, but action frees us from death. Thanks to the ship, those people will continue to exist."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery "Night flight"

The community of Szczecin was able to read prophet words of the writer and turn them into action. Moreover, for centuries, it had been capable of building beautiful and strong ships, so after the painful experience of 1970, in the memorable year of 1980, it built a ship a loaded it with hope together with shipyard workers from Gdańsk and the rest of the Polish society. The ship was given the name of 'SOLIDARNOŚC'. It sailed stormy waters in the years to come, so we could write on the wall of our airport to commemorate those Builders and Sailors:

"FOR THOSE WHO WERE BRAVE ENOUGH TO TURN UNREAL INTO REALITY"

Szczecin - Goleniów, 22 April 2006 r