Solidarity: A Peaceful Revolution


The strike swept across the country

The strike swept across all of Poland. People were united by a SHARED GOAL and a keen desire for change.

To this day, witnesses recall the mutual respect and solemn mood of those days: the omnipresent sense of freedom, equality and community.

The workers protested WITH SUPPORT FROM THE PEOPLE.

Whole families went on strike that August. People handed money, food, medicine, flowers and more through the shipyard gate. From the city side, people kept watch regardless of the weather, giving constant support to the striking workers.

Opposition intellectuals from all over Poland came to Gdańsk Shipyard to provide knowledge and advice. That both the working class and intelligentsia recognised common interests was a remarkable August phenomenon.

The protesters also received the SUPPORT OF THE WESTERN WORLD.

The force of the Polish protests, as well as their surprising finale, i.e. the agreement between the strikers and the representatives of the communist authorities, dominated the world’s headlines for many weeks. Equally significant was the reaction of Western trade unions and individuals from around the world who expressed support for the strikers.


Almost 800 workplaces from all over Poland sent delegates to Gdańsk Shipyard, the strikers made their decisions openly in majority votes. Negotiators, debate participants, typists, printers, journalists and all strike services would work over a dozen hours a day — people gave their best.


The word self-governing, i.e. deciding about oneself, came to have practical use during the strike and, when the union was officially established, it became part of its name.


The strikers’ community inspired Gdańsk artist Jerzy Janiszewski to create the Solidarity logo. The idea came up spontaneously. The shape and arrangement of the letters, coupled with the use of the white-and-red flag motif, expressed the idea of unity and mutual support: People in the dense crowd support one another in solidarity—the crowd in front of the gate was like that, those standing did not push their way, did not push back but supported each other . . . , recalls the artist. The word Solidarity became an iconic sign of the Polish peaceful revolution recognisable all over the world.

Initially, the news about the strikes in Gdańsk did not reach people in Poland. The authorities cut off phone links and censored media reports. Therefore, a list of 21 demands was made. Written on boards, they were displayed next to Gate No. 2 of Gdańsk Lenin Shipyard to communicate for what the workers were fighting.


Self-organisation was essential. The strike stewards ensured order in the Shipyard. Drinking alcohol would get you thrown out of the workplace, you would be handed over to the police (milicja) for theft. Only pass holders were allowed to enter the workplace.