This is the second very striking museum in Gdansk. The story starts with the Eastern block of countries dominated by Russia and behind the Iron Curtain.
The Museum is designed and constructed of rusting steel plates and looks like a partly constructed ship. The Shipyard where it all started in next door and entry is via the famous Gate 2 where the first protests started on 1980.
Inside the first section is a time clock to check in at the start of a shift.
There is a crane cab where Anna Walentynowicz, whose dismissal was one of the reasons for the outbreak of the strike in 1980. This had followed a massacre of 45 workers on the Polish Coast in 1970.
I did not feel it appropriate to take a picture of the jacket of Ludwik Piernicki, a 20-year-old plumber at Gdynia Shipyard and a victim of the December 1970 Massacre. The bullet hole is right opposite his heart is very clear for all to see.
What was also a key piece was the large ply wood board on which the workers demands were written out. The could not access the media and the news media was heavily censored.
At that time life was harsh with difficulty getting accommodation and food
They show the typical family apartment of the time and draw attention to the sources of news the state television channel and Radio Free Europe
To abbreviate the story the ship yard workers succeeded with some of their demands however soon other groups were aiming to achieve the same basic workers and human rights.
The result was that Marshall law was introduced in 1981. It is possibly significant that there are multiple TV screens showing General Jaruzelski announcing the onset of this policy. During this time 12 miners were shot dead as they went to work
There was widespread support from around the world and the Pope, John Paul II who was Polish also came on several visits particularly in 1983 and 1987. The museum shows that these had a significant impact as they emphasised the humanitarian side of the conflict.
Also of profound impact was the murder of Father Jerzy_Popiełuszko a Roman Catholic Priest on 19 October 1984 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Popiełuszko
The elections that followed led to the establishment of a Government where Solidarity had an overwhelming majority.
The fall of Communism and the Berlin Wall that occurred in 1989 is also featured.
Most important is the UN declaration of Human Rights.
Nearby is a wall where visitors can express their views on the current process. The comments about Hong Kong are thought provoking. It shows that the issues, raised by Solidarity, apply around the world even to this day.
There is a roof top observation deck and that was also striking
The cranes were still there.
The Gdansk shipyards were originally making 20% of the worlds ships with one being finished every 2 weeks.
Ironically they were declared bankrupt in 1989 in particular following the fall of their largest customer the USSR. They have struggled to come back to life ever since.
Most importantly they have a sad memorial to those who were killed just outside Gate 2 of the Ship Yard and where the museum is now located.
The museum shows what an important struggle it was to establish Solidarity and how we all are reliant on those basic workers and human rights. This applies no matter what country we live in.
The laws of harsh commercial economics however all too frequently seem to drive a different agenda. It was noticeable that on our flight back to the UK there was a large number of young men who seemed to be going to the UK to work.
- Solidarity Museum https://www.ecs.gda.pl/title,Exhibition,pid,20.html
- Pope John Paul https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_II
- Jerzy Popiełuszko https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Popie%C5%82uszko
- Gdansk shipyard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gda%C5%84sk_Shipyard