Anna Walentynowicz

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Anna Walentynowicz
Anna Walentynowicz with Paula Dobriansky cropped.jpg
Anna Walentynowicz (2005)
Born (1929-08-15)August 15, 1929
Równe, Poland (now Rivne, Ukraine)
Died April 10, 2010(2010-04-10) (aged 80)
Smolensk, Russia
Occupation Free trade union activist
Plaque to Anna Walentynowicz on house, wherein she lived to death.
President Lech Kaczyński decorates Anna Walentynowicz (May 3, 2006)
Building in Gdańsk-Wrzeszcz where Anna Walentynowicz lived (2010)
Anna Walentynowicz second from the right, while Andrzej Kołodziej speaks to the microphones (Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, August 20, 1980)
The mass for the homeland. In the first row: Anna Walentynowicz (Warsaw, 1983)

Anna Walentynowicz (Polish pronunciation: [ˈanna valɛntɨˈnɔvit͡ʂ]; August 15, 1929 – April 10, 2010) was a Polish free trade union activist. Her firing in August 1980 was the event that ignited the strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk that very quickly paralyzed the Baltic coast and a giant wave of strikes in Poland. The Interfactory Strike Committee (MKS) based in the Gdańsk shipyard eventually transformed itself into Solidarity trade union, of which she became a prominent member. By September more than million workers were on strike in support of the 21 demands of MKS, making it the largest strike ever. Walentynowicz, whose name became synonymous with the strike became an organizing slogan [Bring Anna Walentynowicz Back to Work!] in the early days of the Gdansk strike, is now widely regarded as "mother of independent Poland."


Born in Rivne as Anna Lubczyk in what is now Ukraine in 1929, Anna Walentynowcz was orphaned during the Second World War and repatriated into Poland. She began working in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland in 1950, first as a welder, later as a crane operator. Recognized as a "Hero of Socialist Labor" or Stakhanovite for her hard work, Walentynowicz became disillusioned with the communist system in Poland, especially after the bloody events in December 1970 on the Baltic Coast (Polish 1970 protests). While she was an activist and a member of a socialist youth organization, she was never formally a member of the communist party. She was a devout Catholic who believed in social justice and standing up against oppression, in her later years deeply moved by the teachings of John Paul II with whom she developed a personal relationship. One of the last letters that John Paul II wrote was to Anna Walentynowicz wishing her speedy recovery from a back injury.[1] She began her quest for justice by speaking out publicly when one of her supervisors stole money from the workers' bonus fund to win a lottery. Instead of reprimanding the corrupt supervisor, the system turned on her—she was harassed by secret police.

The exemplary worker and Hero of Socialist Labor turned a vocal dissident because the so-called workers state did not care about its workers. Walentynowicz joined the newly formed WZZ or Free Trade Unions of the Coast in 1978, and in the early 1980s came to symbolize the opposition movement, along with her colleagues from the WZZ, Lech Wałęsa, Andrzej Gwiazda, Bogdan Borusewicz, Alina Pienkowska, the Wyszkowski brothers and Andrzej Kołodziej. As editor of the Polish samizdat (bibuła) Robotnik Wybrzeża (The Coastal Worker), she distributed an underground newsheet at the shipyard; she often challenged the authorities, and it was not uncommon for her to openly challenge her superiors.

For participation in the illegal trade union she was fired from work on August 7, 1980, 5 months before she was due to retire. This management decision enraged the workers, who staged a strike action on August 14 defending Anna Walentynowicz and demanding her return. In early reportage from the Gdańsk strike by Western press, which was permitted into the shipyard, Anna Walentynowicz is mentioned earlier than Lech Wałęsa. On the third day of the strike, on August 16, 1980, management granted Lenin Shipyard workers their working and pay demands. Lech Wałęsa and others announced the end of the strike. The women of the shipyard, Anna Waletynowicz and Alina Pienkowska, are credited in most eye-witness accounts for transforming a strike over bread and butter issues into a solidarity strike in sympathy with other striking establishments.[2] Walentynowicz and Pienkowska managed to close the gates of the shipyard and keep some workers inside, but many workers went home, only to return by the next day. Wałęsa was stopped near the Gate no. 1 as he was leaving and was persuaded to change his plans and return to the shipyard.[3][4] The Gdańsk Agreement was signed on August 31, 1980 recognizing the right to organize free trade unions independent of the Party for the first time in the Communist bloc. When the Solidarity trade union was registered shortly after the Gdańsk Agreement, it had nearly ten million members, the world's largest union to date.

And anyway, our aim should not be to secure a somewhat thicker slice of bread today, even if this would make us happy; we must not forget what our real aim is. Our main duty is to consider the needs of others. If we become alive to this duty, there will be no unjustly treated people in our midst, and we, in turn, shall not be treated unjustly. Our day-to-day motto should be: "Your problems are also my problems." We must extend our friendship and strengthen our solidarity.[5]

Martial law was declared in December 1981 and Solidarity was fragmented. The clique around Wałęsa assumed power as a Temporary Coordinating Committee. With western support held onto it, they abandoned the ideals of 1980.[6] In September 1986 Lech Wałęsa created the first public and legal Solidarity structure since the declaration of martial law, the Temporary Council of NSZZ Solidarity (Tymczasowa Rada NSZZ Solidarność), with Bogdan Borusewicz, Zbigniew Bujak, Władysław Frasyniuk, Tadeusz Jedynak, Bogdan Lis, Janusz Pałubicki, and Józef Pinior. In October 1987, the Country Executive Committee of NSZZ Solidarity (Krajowa Komisja Wykonawcza NSZZ Solidarność) was created by Lech Wałęsa (chairman), Zbigniew Bujak, Jerzy Dłużniewski, Władysław Frasyniuk, Stefan Jurczak, Bogdan Lis, Andrzej Milczanowski, Janusz Pałubicki, Stanisław Węglarz.

This distance between Solidarity and the workers is the major reason for my disagreement with Wałęsa. The Temporary Committee of Solidarity is something new. It is structured too much like the PZPR. They have privileges so the ideas of Solidarity have been dropped. During the seven years since martial law there have been no meetings with workers. They meet amongst themselves, on whose behalf? In 1986 it was a surprise that such people as Bujak and Borusewicz instead of calling a National Commission nominated themselves. The opposition surprised even the Government. At this moment they broke the statutes. In the fall of 1987 Solidarity members, including myself, during the pilgrimage to Częstochowa sent a petition to Wałęsa to call a National Commission meeting. But Wałęsa wouldn’t accept it. So there have been no meetings, except amongst themselves.[6]

Walentynowicz has criticized Wałęsa for taking too much individual credit, and not sufficiently acknowledging that the Solidarity union triumph was a group effort involving millions, saying that his "cult of personality" greatly damaged the movement.[7] It is well documented that Walesa-inspired effort to cleanse the informant "Bolek" file during his presidency dealt a serious blow to lustration efforts in Poland.[8][9][10] She denounced Wałęsa's conduct in her book Cień przyszłości (The Shadow of the Future) published in Poland in 1993 (the book was published in Germany in 2012 as Solidarność - eine persönliche Geschichte).[11][12][13] French journalist Jean-Marcel Bouguereau, who witnessed the events in Poland in 1980 and was expelled two times, wrote one of the first critical articles in Libération about Wałęsa. He titled Walentynowicz "The real heroine of Gdańsk".[14]

She talked about her expectations in an interview in 1985:

We must not wait passively. A free Poland is our aim, but no one will give us that freedom. Our passivity will result in their murdering more and more of us, in more and more people suffering. We must educate, because even when a free Poland is achieved, the nation will be so exhausted that there will be no one to lead it.[5]

While remaining active and outspoken after 1989, Walentynowicz distanced herself from various political parties allied with the new Solidarity. She felt the new Solidarity elites have abandoned the workers and ordinary people, not living up to the core Solidarity values of social justice. She felt that Solidarity had been co-opted by self-interested individuals who reneged on their promises.[15] She avoided anniversary celebrations organised by the new Solidarity. In 1995 she wrote an open letter to Wałęsa.[16] In 2000 she declined an honorary citizenship of the city of Gdańsk. During the strike at the docks in Gdynia in February 2002 she said:

The 21 demands that we put up in 1980 are still relevant. Nothing was fulfilled. People still have to struggle to be treated with dignity. That's scandalous.[17]

In 2003 she asked for compensation from the government for her 1980s persecution, eventually receiving part of the sum. Walentynowicz cared little about herself and mostly donated all that she had to those who needed help. On November 15, 2004 she signed (along with other former strikers of 1980, activists of the first Solidarity and former political prisoners) an open letter prepared by Andrzej Gwiazda to the European Parliament about the development of Solidarity.[18] The European Parliament took note of the open letter in a motion for a resolution in 2005, deploring the fact that the new Solidarity, created in 1989, did not pursue the aims of the first Solidarity.[19] Walentynowicz was vocal pointing bad conduct of the Civic Platform political party in Poland.[20][21] On December 11, 2009 she organized in the Polish Sejm the conference "Poland after XX years 1989-2009".

On December 13, 2005 Walentynowicz accepted the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom in Washington on behalf of the first free trade union Solidarity and was personally honored along with John Paul II and General Edward Rowny,[22] Chief US Nuclear Arms Control Negotiator with the Soviets.[2] The columnist Georgie Anne Geyer called her the Rosa Parks of Solidarity and in her column compared her to the likes of Indira Gandhi and Corazon Aquino. During her visit she met with vice president Linda Chavez Thompson and other leaders of AFL-CIO.[23][24]

Wer ist Anna Walentynowicz? ("Who is Anna Walentynowicz?", directed by Sylke Rene Meyer, 2002, winner of the Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award), Podwójne dno ("Double Bottom",[25] directed by Dariusz Małecki, 1994), Anna Proletariuszka ("Anna Proletarian", directed by Marek Ciecierski and Sławomir Grunberg, 1980/81) and Robotnicy '80 ("Workers '80",[26] 1980) are documentary films in which she is portrayed. Anna Walentynowicz is played by Frances Cox in Leslie Woodhead's docudrama Strike: The Birth of Solidarity (1981).[27][28] She appeared as herself in Man of Iron (1981), prompting some to call her "woman of iron."[29] Schlöndorff's movie Strike is a fictionalized version of her story.[30][31][32]

Walentynowicz died in a plane crash near Smolensk on April 10, 2010, along with President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, First Lady Maria Kaczyńska, and many other prominent Polish leaders.[33][34][35] A plaque on her house in Wrzeszcz, a borough of Gdańsk, has recently been dedicated and the city of Gdynia named an intersection after her.[36] Michael Szporer, Professor of Communications at University of Maryland wrote about her: "Her life was very much like Poland's, never nothing, but if you are not afraid to speak up for yourself and care for others, just look what you can become,"Pani Ania," a worthier role model than most, because an honest one. Our caring and protective mother!"[29]


From a brochure handed out to workers in Lenin Shipyard on August 14, 1980:
To the workers of the Gdansk Shipyard

We turn to YOU colleagues of Anna Walentynowicz. She has worked at the shipyard since 1950. Sixteen years as a welder, later as crane operator in W-2 section, awarded bronze, silver and in 1979 Gold Cross of Merit (Krzyz zaslugi). She had always been a model worker, what is more, one who reacted to every wrong and injustice.

This has resulted in her activism in independence of management trade union movement. Walentynowicz received a disciplinary notice of firing on August 7 for "major infraction of worker's responsibilities." We would like to remind you that Anna Walentynowicz has only five months to retirement. This matter demonstrates that the administration of the shipyard does not care about public opinion or legal procedure, which it violates forcing people to bend with its whims. Anna Walentynowicz has been a thorn in their side, because she is a model activist devoted to others. She is a thorn in their side because she defends others and is capable of organizing her colleagues... We appeal to you, defend the crane operator Walentynowicz. If you don't, many of you may find themselves in the same miserable situation.

Signed Founding Committee of Independent Trade Unions and the editorial board of THE COASTAL WORKER: Bogdan Borusewicz, Joanna Duda-Gwiazda, Andrzej Gwiazda, Jan Karandziej, Maryla Płońska, Alina Pienkowska, Lech Wałęsa


Works currently unavailable in English[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Szporer, Michael (2012). Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-7487-6. 
  2. ^ a b Szporer, Michael (2011). "Anna Walentynowicz and the Legacy of Solidarity in Poland". Journal of Cold War Studies. 
  3. ^ Walentynowicz, Anna (1993). "Gorący sierpień (Dobra, idę z wami!)". Cień przyszłości (The Shadow of the Future) (in Polish). Gdańsk: Albatros. pp. 81–82. ISBN 83-85293-40-X. "W pobliżu bramy nr 1 spotykamy Lecha. Idzie, otoczony tłumem, kierując się ku wyjściu. Dumny jak paw, lekko podchmielony - widać, że "uzgadnianie szczegółów" z dyrektorem poszło gładko. Zatrzymujemy go, gorączkowo mu tłumaczymy, że nie wolno nam myśleć tylko o sobie, że błąd, jaki popełniliśmy można jeszcze naprawić. Jest bardzo zdziwiony, po chwili wpada w złość: - 'O co wam chodzi, przecież strajk jest zakończony.' Ostra wymiana zdań. Już wtedy był przekonany o własnej nieomylności. Nie lubił, gdy ktoś ośmielał się wątpić w słuszność jego decyzji. Nie ustępowałyśmy. Wreszcie coś do niego dotarło. Chyba zrozumiał, że jeśli nas nie posłucha - ster wymknie mu się z rąk. - 'Dobra, idę z wami.'" 
  4. ^ Cenciekiewicz, Sławomir. Anna Solidarność (in Polish). Zysk i S-ka. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-83-7506-507-7. "Walentynowicz dobiegła do bramy nr 1, wychodzącej na Stare Miasto. Tam spotkała zdezorientowanego Wałęsę, szarpnęła go za rękaw, chciała przemówić. Stanęła na akumulatorowym wózku i przemówiła do robotników. Oznajmiła, że właśnie proklamowano strajk solidarnościowy." 
  5. ^ a b "Don't Wait for Instructions: An Interview with Anna Walentynowicz [from: Biuletyn Dolnośląski, no. 1(59) (January 1985)]". Polish Underground Extracts (11). 31 July 1985. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Ford, Chris. "Interview with Anna Walentynowicz on the situation in Poland, August 1988". The Commune. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Szaniawska, Jolanta N. (9.09.2007). "Kalejdoskop ottawski - wrzesień 2007 (Anna Walentynowicz w Ottawie) [Ottawian Caleidoscope - September 2007. Anna Walentynowicz in Ottawa]" (in Polish). Transatlantyk Nadziei - Polonia kanadyjska w Ottawie. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Cenckiewicz and Gontarczyk (2008). SB a Lech Wałęsa. IPN. 
  9. ^ Szporer, Michael (2009). "SB a Lech Walesa". Journal of Cold War Studies. 
  10. ^ Recovered documents not considered by the Lustration Court strongly suggest that Walesa was Bolek, who informed on several of his colleagues [Henryk Lenarciak, Henryk Jagielski among others] who were leaders of the December 1970 strike between 1970 and 1976. (Michael Szporer, "The Great Workers Strike of 1980". Lanham, MD: Lexington Books: 2012)
  11. ^ a b "Cień przyszłości" by Anna Walentynowicz
  12. ^ a b "Solidarność - eine persönliche Geschichte" by Anna Walentynowicz and publisher's desciption:
  13. ^ Lasch, Sebastian (2012-11-22). "Review of the book: Anna Walentynowicz: Solidarność – eine persönliche Geschichte" (in German). Portal für Politikwissenschaft. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 
  14. ^ Bouguereau, Jean-Marcel (2008-09-27). "Anna Walentynowicz: la véritable héroïne de Gdansk" (in French). Le Nouvel Observateur ( Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  15. ^ "There was the Third Way (An interview with an economist prof. Witold Kieżun by Alicja Dołowska)". Niedziela (Sunday) (2): 38–40. 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Walentynowicz, Anna (25 September 1995). "List otwarty do Lecha Wałęsy (An open letter to Lech Wałęsa)". Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  17. ^ "Wer is Anna Walentynowicz (Who is Anna Walentynowicz?), a documentary film by Sylke Rene Meyer" (in German, English). 2002. 
  18. ^ "An Open Letter to the European Parliament". Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "Motion for a resolution". European Parliament. 2005-09-19. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  20. ^ "Anna Walentynowicz interviewed by Cezary Gmyz (19.08.2009)". 
  21. ^ "Twórcy Solidarności. Anna Walentynowicz (Creators of Solidarity. Anna Walentynowicz)" (in Polish). Stowarzyszenie Akcjonariuszy i Obrońców Stoczni Gdańskiej "ARKA". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  22. ^ Szporer. Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-7488-3. 
  23. ^ "USA: Wizyta Anny Walentynowicz w USA". 
  24. ^ In a meeting at the State Department, she presented a relief sculpture of John Paul II as a gift to President George W. Bush and the American people, which was accepted by Paula Dobriansky, Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, who has been recognized for her support of the Solidarity Union.
  25. ^ "Film można odłożyć na półkę... – z Dariuszem Małeckim rozmawiają Rafał Górski i Szymon Surmacz (An Interview with Dariusz Małecki)". Magazyn Obywatel (in Polish) (5 (25)): 53–54. 2005. ISSN 1641-1021. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Pond, Elizabeth (22 January 1981). "'Workers '80' -- Poland's unofficial movie of the week". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Wanamaker, Zoë. "Strike: The Birth of Solidarity (1981)". 
  28. ^ Leslie, Woodhead. "Video clips by Leslie Woodhead". 
  29. ^ a b Szporer, Michael (15 April 2010). "Woman of Iron". Transitions Online. 
  30. ^ Karnowski, Michał (2007-10-12). "Anna Walentynowicz wciąż walczy" [Anna Walentynowicz still fights]. Dziennik (in Polish). Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  31. ^ Żyszkiewicz, Waldemar (9 March 2007). "Strajk. Makatka z Gdańska". Tygodnik Solidarność (in Polish) (10). Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  32. ^ Hickley, Catherine (March 8, 2007). "`Strike' Film Honors Shipyard Heroine Who Fought Communism". Bloomberg. Retrieved June 22, 2007. 
  33. ^ Kulish, Nicholas; Clifford J. Levy (April 11, 2010). "Body of Polish President Is Flown Back to Warsaw". New York Times (Warsaw). p. 2. Retrieved April 11, 2010.  Does not list Walentynowicz; only lists top eight Prominent Passengers in sidebar.
  34. ^ "Anna Walentynowicz, whose sacking led to the rise of Solidarity". The Guardian.
  35. ^ Martin, Douglas, "Anna Walentynowicz, Polish Provocateur Who Spurred Communism’s Fall, Dies at 80", The New York Times, April 12, 2010 (April 13, 2010 p. A17 NY ed.). Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  36. ^ " - Rondo Anny Walentynowicz w Gdyni". 
  37. ^ Koman, Wincenty. "Reflection about the film by Sylke Rene Meyer (Polish language)". Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  38. ^ "International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation. Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award". 
  39. ^ "Nie czekać na wytyczne. Rozmowa z Anną Walentynowicz (Don't Wait for Instructions: An Interview with Anna Walentynowicz)". Biuletyn Dolnośląski (1 (59)): 2–4. January 1985. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  40. ^ Kania, Dorota (25 January 2012). "Szyderstwo zamiast współczucia (Rozmowa z Januszem Walentynowiczem) [Interview with Janusz Walentynowicz]". Gazeta Polska (in Polish). Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  41. ^ "Anna Walentynowicz speaking during the conference "Poland after XX years 1989-2009" (11 December 2009)" (in Polish). GlosTygodnik. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  42. ^ Zborowski, Lech (2013-06-16). "Jak doszło do sierpniowego strajku [1], nieznane fakty (What is the origin of the August strike [1], unknown facts)" (in Polish). WZZW (on Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  43. ^ Walaszczyk, Maciej (1 September 2012). "Wzór na trudne czasy (An example for hard times)". Nasz Dziennik (in Polish). Retrieved 11 February 2014. ""Wystawa, choć bardzo interesująca i wartościowa, jest także pełna niedopowiedzeń." (The exhibition, while very interesting and valuable is also full of understatements)" 
  44. ^ Szporer, Michael (2012). Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980. Lexington Books. ISBN 0739174886. 
  45. ^ "Anna Solidarność" by Cenckiewicz (Publisher's desciption)
  46. ^ "Solidarity hero's bio gets Japanese translation" (Polskie Radio, 30.01.2012),Solidarity-heros-bio-gets-Japanese-translation
This article incorporates information from the revision as of April 29, 2006 of the equivalent article on the Polish Wikipedia.