How did the soviet union collapse? Yeah, been wondering about that too. On my recent visit to Poland the story told was that it all started in Gdansk, with the solidarity movement and a very eager political activist by the name of Lech Walesa. Back in the 1980s the workers of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk tried to break away from the central union control of the communist party with mass protests against the heavy bureaucracy that failed to protect workers’ rights. Martial law and political repression did little to suppress the resistance leading to a negotiation resulting in a big step in the weakening of the communist hold. These, eventually, made way to the semi-free elections that made it possible for the solidarity part and Lech to win and take control of post-USSR Poland. There is little doubt that the mass protests helped with the decline of the eastern soviet block hold, finally resulting in mass protest everywhere and a declaration of independence from the USSR.

It’s a fascinating story, one that I knew very little about. The European Solidarity Center has a remarkable exhibition taking you step by step through the highly complex history with a very strong nationalistic anti-soviet narrative, hailing Lech and the solidarity. One of the reason for visiting the center, BTW, was that Lech was expected to give a speech there. Yes, he’s very much alive and well, even if the solidarity movement isn’t as influential as it once was. Fighting for workers’ rights and ideals of self-expressions is one thing, but leading a country is another matter all together, and so while Lech is appreciated as freeing Poland of the Soviet grip, he is a somewhat controversial political figure.

 

Let’s go in…

 

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An impressive conference center…

 

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With the solidarity museum…

 

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Once you’re done with that, head up to the roof from some distant views of Gdansk…

 

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Location:

 

Overall, a very well done exhibition, well-worth visiting to learn about the dark and complex history of the Polish struggle during the years of the Soviet Union. It’s remarkable to see how well Poland is doing today, in comparison to 20 something years ago. We take the current European Union situation for granted, but that exhibition is a strong reminder of what might have been had it not for the persistence of a very stubborn and persistent few against what they perceived as grave injustice.



Tags: communism; Gdansk; Lech Walesa; Poland; Russia; solidarity; Solidarity center; soviet union; The European Solidarity Center; USSR;


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