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article imageAug 17 commemorates anniversary of Poland's solidarity movement

By Gemma Fox     Aug 17, 2010 in World
In 1980 protesting shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland brought forward what was known historically as 21 Gdansk Demands and today, August 17, marks the anniversary of an event that would begin to see Poland move towards freedom from communism.
The Solidarity movement was begun by Lech Wałęsa, an electrician with no higher education, who had began working at the Gdansk shipyards. He was, from the outset, a trade union activist and would openly encourage other workers to stand up for what they believed in. He co-founded Solidarity (Solidarność) in September 1980, after the successful August protests, which became the Eastern Bloc's first independent trade union.
In the 21 Gdansk Demands he and the yard workers demanded better conditions for workers including the right to strike and demanded better wages.
Wałęsa and the shipyard workers also demanded the end of the broadcasting of church services and the end of censorship.
What began on August 17 1980 as the 21 Gdansk Demands finished off at the end of August as the August Agreement which saw measures being laid out to have a legalised trade union within Poland, the first of it's kind in the Eastern Bloc. The eventual outcome would be the toppling of communism in Poland in 1989.
The protesting shipyard workers had originally written out their set of 21 demands on a series of boards which they used in their protest. These boards were hidden in a local hospital and by Gdansk Maritime Museum staff members. They survived the martial law that was brought into place in December 1981 but at that point were hidden in a museum workers attic and subsequently forgotten about.
Following the collapse of the People's Republic of Poland in 1989 the Gdansk Demands boards remained forgotten until 1996 when they were rediscovered and were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list along side other texts and other important relics that are said to have influenced the history of mankind.
More about August, Gdansk demands, Solidarity, Lech walesa
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