27 October 2005

Poland Commemorates 25 Years of the Solidarność Movement at the United Nations, Vienna

VIENNA, 27 October (UN Information Service) -- The Permanent Mission of Poland to the United Nations (Vienna) in co-operation with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland to the Republic of Austria will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the trade union "Solidarność", and the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, in a two-week long series of events to be held at the Vienna International Centre (VIC), from 31 October - 11 November 2005. The events aim at paying tribute to the role of the Solidarność movement in recent Polish and European history.

The events encompass two exhibitions; one titled "Roads to Freedom", which will be on display in the VIC Rotunda, and an exhibition of posters by Polish artists to mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, which will be on display at the VIC restaurant. The exhibitions can be viewed as part of a guided tour of the VIC. The Permanent Mission will also present the tourist attractions of Poland, in a display in the VIC cafeteria, along with the culinary delights of the country which will be part of the cafeteria menu during that period.

The closing ceremony, which is also the main celebration of the 25th anniversary of Solidarność or the "Solidarity" movement, and the 87th anniversary of the Polish Independence Day, will take place on 11 November, at 17:00 hours in the VIC Rotunda. Former President of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, Ambassador Jacek Bylica, Permanent Representative of Poland to the United Nations (Vienna) and Antonio Maria Costa, Director-General, United Nations Office at Vienna, will address the event.

The exhibition "Roads to Freedom" presents the post-war history of Poland in thematic blocks. The history of the resurrection of Gdańsk which has been the cradle of Solidarność from 1980 onwards, everyday life in communist Poland, the pilgrimages to the homeland of Pope John Paul II, and the uprising in the shipyard are presented in a series of dramatic black-and-white photos.

The Solidarność movement began with the workers' strike in 1980, in shipyards in Gdańsk. Under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa, shipyard workers issued 21 demands that included permission to set up independent trade unions, the right to strike, the release of political prisoners, freedom of expression and a wage rise. Given the determined stand of the workers, the communist government decided to sign the agreement, making Poland the first country of the communist bloc whose authorities agreed to the establishment of an independent trade union. Thus, Solidarność was born.  The trade union was outlawed after the declaration of martial law in Poland on 13 December 1981. Despite the ban, Solidarność continued its activities. Fresh strikes in spring and summer 1988 included demands to re-establish the legal status of Solidarność. In February 1989, round-table talks between the communist government and the opposition were underway and after elections in June, Poland had the first non-communist prime minister in post World War II history. "Poland's example encouraged other nations in Central and Eastern Europe and fuelled their hopes for freedom and democracy, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, " said Ambassador Bylica, referring to the exhibition.

In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) included the original board containing the 21 demands of the striking Gdańsk shipyard workers on its World Heritage List.

For more information, contact:

Jaya Mohan, Associate Information Officer, UNIS
Tel: + 43 1 26060 4448, Email: jaya.mohan@unvienna.org

To book a guided tour, contact:

UNIS Vienna Visitors Service , tel: + 43 1 26060 3328
email: tours@unvienna.org