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1980: The birth of Solidarity

Communist Poland went through a summer of industrial unrest in 1980.

There were a string of disputes, culminating in an 18-day stoppage which affected hundreds of businesses throughout the country and almost shut down Poland's Baltic seaport of Gdansk.

Polish workers, led by activist Lech Walesa, were demanding the freedom to strike and the right to form independent trade unions - the first in any Eastern Bloc country.

As the strike threatened to paralyse Warsaw, the communist government finally agreed to the demands on 13 August 1980. Mr Walesa - who formed trade union Solidarity the following month - became a workers' hero.

Your memories:

I'm Polish. I lived in south of Poland and I was only nine years old when it happened, but I remember my parents's reaction to the news.

They were scared not knowing how the government was going to react to it and at the same time there was a sense of hope that finally Polish people were getting united and fighting.

Everyone had their fingers crossed for Solidarity and silently voted their support.

It felt like something amazing was in the air. Scary, but wonderful.
Kate, UK

One of my colleagues was Polish born. He persuaded all the people in our department to donate money to Solidarity, and sent the cash back to poland to help support the people there.

We all received, some months later, little jacket pin badges. Unfortunately I have lost mine.

Times have changed: our colleague is now a priest serving a community in the east of Poland, and I am living in Warsaw with a Polish partner - neither of which would have been possible but for the events in Gdansk.
Bob Cooper, UK

At that time, I worked for the UK tractor company Massey Ferguson Perkins Ltd (MFP) and we had a "co-operation agreement" with the Polish tractor company Ursus based near Warsaw.

MFP had something quite rare - the only permanent telex line operating between UK and Poland.

My boss was based in the Ursus tractor plant in Poland.

I was in UK and will always remember the day that the workers at Ursus went on strike and started to rip up the main railway tracks outside the Ursus tractor plant!

My boss (a very "English" Englishman) was on the open telex line to us and I vividly remember the message he sent just before the line was cut off - "Nigel, I think we have a problem here!"
Nigel Adams, UK

I am 29 now. I cannot remember very much but I do remember and will never forget one moment.

My family and I were going to Krakow to my aunt. Suddenly I saw tanks in the outskirts of Krakow.

I asked my dad if they speak the same language there and where they would take us. I was really scared of that. And imagine, Polish people had to go thorough it the entire year or even more...

Thank God it is different now.
Wojtek, Poland


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