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  • 15 August 2019

    Wednesday, 14 August marks the 39th anniversary of the strike in Gdańsk Shipyard, and the day after, 15 August, marks the 90th birthday of Anna Walentynowicz - free trade union activist, whose removal from work was a direct reason for the strike in 1980.



    Anna Walentynowicz was born on 15 August 1929 in the eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic in a family of Ukrainian Protestants. In 1943, together with the Polish managers of the Pustomyty estate, in which she worked, she moved to the vicinity of Gdańsk, where she found a job on a farm. From November 1950, she was employed at the Gdańsk Shipyard as a welder and then a crane operator. During workers' protests in December 1970, she actively supported the strikers. In 1978 she became one of the founders of Free Trade Unions. In connection with its activities, she became an object of harassment on the part of the Security Service. She would be regularly detained for 48 hours, searched, and threatened with loss of employment.


    On 8 August 1980, a few months before reaching retirement age, she was fired from work. The decision of the management of Gdańsk Shipyard led to a strike that began on 14 August. The restoration of Anna Walentynowicz was one of the protesters' demands. The strike at the Gdańsk Shipyard turned into a national protest, which soon led to the creation of NSZZ "Solidarność" (the Solidarity trade union) and the signing of Gdańsk Agreements on 31 August 1980.


    After the imposition of martial law on 13 December 1981, Anna Walentynowicz was interned. On 9 March 1983, her trial began in the court in Grudziądz. In the indictment she was accused of planning a strike in December 1981. She was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 1.5 years.


    On 4 December 1983, she was imprisoned for participating in an attempt to build a plaque that commemorated the miners killed in the "Wujek" Coal Mine. She left the prison in April of the following year. Shortly afterw, due to her poor health, the court adjourned indefinitely her trial in connection with the accusation of organising demonstrations in honour of the miners killed in December 1981.


    On 3 May 2006, President Lech Kaczyński awarded her with the Order of the White Eagle.


    She died in the crash of the presidential T-154M aircraft in Smoleńsk on 10 April 2010, being part of the delegation accompanying President Lech Kaczyński on the way to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyń massacre.


    By decision of President Andrzej Duda in March 2018, she was posthumously awarded the Cross of Freedom and Solidarity. By resolution of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, 2019 was designated the Year of Anna Walentynowicz.


    Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy

    Poland MFA

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