Solidarity Union Walking Tour, Gdansk

Solidarity Union Walking Tour (Self Guided), Gdansk

For decades, the word 'Solidarity' (Polish: Solidarność) has been synonymous with the city of Gdansk. The peaceful Solidarity revolution, started here in the August of 1980, marked the outset of the fall of communism not only in Poland but also throughout Eastern Europe.

Stemmed from the country's first free labor union born out of strikes at the Lenin Shipyard (now the Gdansk Shipyard), Solidarność bloomed into a nationwide social movement. Even though many other Polish cities also partook in the struggle against communist rule, Solidarity is still strongly associated with its cradle in Gdansk and its leader Lech Wałęsa. Here, Wałęsa, the future president of Poland, had worked as an electrician in the 1970s. After being sacked for opposing the regime, he had formed the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee whose activities would ultimately contribute to bringing down the iron curtain across the entire continent.

For most guests of the city, a visit to the local shipyard and other Solidarity sights forms part of a popular shore excursion that combines well with their Gdansk city tour. The best place to start it is the European Solidarity Centre (aka Solidarity Museum) highlighting some of the complicated chapters of Polish history (from the end of WWII to the free elections of 1989), outlining reasons for the strikes, the Gdansk Agreement, the carnival of Solidarity and Martial Law.

Nearby you will find the Monument to the fallen Shipyard Workers, commemorating the victims of police brutality during the strikes in 1970. Also, you will see a fragment of the shipyard wall that Lech Wałęsa famously climbed during the strike in 1980.

If you are a history buff with a keen interest in post-war Europe, we invite you to take this self-guided walking tour for a chance to explore Solidarity cause and places in Gdansk.
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Solidarity Union Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Solidarity Union Walking Tour
Guide Location: Poland » Gdansk (See other walking tours in Gdansk)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • European Solidarity Centre
  • BHP Hall
  • Stocznia Gdańska (Gdańsk Shipyard)
  • Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers
  • Lech Wałęsa's Wall
European Solidarity Centre

1) European Solidarity Centre

The European Solidarity Centre (Polish: Europejskie Centrum Solidarności) is a museum and library devoted to the history of Solidarity, the Polish trade union and civil resistance movement, and other opposition movements of Communist Eastern Europe.

Housed in a laboriously industrial-looking 21st-century hulk of architecture, the exhibition in this unmarked centre (finding the entrance here may prove a bit difficult) has quickly become one of the city's unmissables since opening in 2014. The design of the building evokes the hulls of ships built at the Gdańsk Shipyard.

The opening ceremony took place on 31 August 2014, on the anniversary of the signing of the Gdańsk Agreement, and was attended by Lech Wałęsa, the co-founder of Solidarity and later President of Poland.

The centre awards Medals of Gratitude to foreigners who assisted the Polish opposition to Communism. Its permanent collection has around 2,000 exhibits, and the library contains around 100,000 books and documents. The centre also houses a research and academic centre and conducts educational activities, as well as providing space for conferences and temporary exhibitions.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
BHP Hall

2) BHP Hall

Sala BHP, or BHP Hall, made history on August 31, 1980 as the place where the pivotal Gdańsk (aka August) Agreements were reached, laying foundation for the independent and self-governing Solidarność movement in Poland.

This monumental edifice was erected at the turn of the 20th century as part of what was then the Kaiserliche Werft Danzig (Imperial Shipyard of Danzig). Completed in 1902, it incorporates a two-story administrative section and a ground-level storage area, which today houses the historic Great Hall.

Initially, the facility served the military needs of Prussia and later the Third Reich, and was used as a torpedo storage and assembly plant for the armament of warships. Due to its original function, the place is also known as the Gdańsk Shipyard Torpedo Hall; a historical inscription to this effect is on the north-east facade.

Military production on the site ceased in the spring of 1945. After a fire on December 13, 1961, in which 22 workers died, the building was dedicated to occupational safety training and has since been called Sala BHP (Bezpieczeństwo i higiena pracy - Occupational Health and Safety). In 1979, there were a conference hall and a museum established on the premises.

In August 1980, the Hall accommodated the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee (MKS – 'Międzyzakładowy Komitet Strajkowy') and hosted negotiations between the MKS and the Polish government.

In 1999, together with Plac Solidarności, the building was officially listed as a historic monument. In December 2004, the Hall was taken over by the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union "Solidarity". The present museum was established in 2010.

The presidium table (comprising a number of smaller tables, each measuring 200 x 88 cm, made in the carpentry shop of the Gdańsk Shipyard) at which the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee was sat is carefully preserved and on display. There is also the exposition called "Solidarity" - Ways to the agreement".
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Stocznia Gdańska (Gdańsk Shipyard)

3) Stocznia Gdańska (Gdańsk Shipyard)

The Gdańsk Shipyard (Polish: Stocznia Gdańska) is one of the largest shipyards in the world. It gained international fame in September 1980 when the Solidarity (Solidarność) movement was founded here, marking the outset of organized resistance to Communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe.

That year Gdańsk saw a strike by 17,000 ship builders, led by shipyard electrician Lech Wałęsa, which resulted in recognition of Solidarity as the first non-Communist trade union in the Soviet Bloc. The move was one of the first successful steps in a campaign of civil resistance that contributed to the eventual collapse of Communism across the Eastern Bloc.

The shipyard itself was founded in 1946 in the place of the former German shipyards, Schichau-Werft and Danziger Werft, both considerably damaged in the Second World War. During the time of the People's Republic of Poland, the complex was known as the Gdańsk Shipyard and Vladimir Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk (1967–89). In 1975 it was also named "Westerplatte Heroes" commemorating The Battle of Westerplatte, the first battle of the German invasion of Poland, marking the start of World War II in Europe.

The first launches at the shipyard took place in 1948 and included smack and rescue boats for the Gdańsk Institute of Sea Fishing, as well as SS Sołdek, the first seagoing vessel made in Poland (currently used as a museum ship). In 1949 the production included fishing lugo-trawlers, and after 1955, the shipyard built vessels – mainly troop landing craft, hydrographic, rescue, training and torpedo boats – for the navies of Poland, USSR, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Eastern Germany.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers

4) Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers

Solidarity Square in Gdansk is dominated by the 42-metre Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers 1970. Symbolically, this Monument (Pomnik Poległych Stoczniowców 1970) commemorates the 42 (or more) people killed during the so-called Coastal Cities' events that took place in December 1970. The protests, sparked by a sudden hike in prices of food and other everyday items, were brutally put down by the Polish People's Army and Citizen's Militia, resulting in more than 40 people dead and over 1,000 wounded.

The Monument was unveiled on 16 December 1980 near the entrance to what was then the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. It was created in the aftermath of the Gdańsk Agreement and is the first monument to the victims of communist oppression to be erected in a communist country. Its implementation became possible only after of the Agreement was signed. During the strikes, funds for its construction were collected from both the strikers and local residents; donors from other parts of the country also contributed.

The authorities tried to postpone the monument's construction, as well as to change its name so that it would also pay tribute to the fallen policemen. The latter idea was met with fierce opposition, seen as an attempt to manipulate the historical truth and to blur the responsibility for the massacre. The Monument Committee acted courageously to obtain final approval for the location and construction start date, fighting against the false pretexts used by the authorities to prevent the project. The unveiling ceremony, marking the tenth anniversary of the 1970 events, was accompanied by the premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki's Lacrimosa, commissioned specially for the occasion by Lech Wałęsa.

The monument consists of three crosses, each weighing 36 tons and measuring 42 meters in height. Suspended from each cross is an anchor weighing about two tons. In the lower part of the monument there are reliefs depicting scenes from the life of the shipyard workers. The monument carries a quotation from Psalm 29, as well as a fragment of the poem Who You Wronged by Czesław Miłosz.

To date, this monument is one of the most important memorial places in Gdansk where high-ranking international politicians, royalty, as well as the pope John Paul II have paid their tribute to the victims.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Lech Wałęsa's Wall

5) Lech Wałęsa's Wall

By 1980 the Polish economy had been in severe crisis for five years. When the government drastically increased food prices again, the public mood in the country started boiling over with resentment about the poor living and working conditions.

Growing tensions resulted in eruption in the early hours of 14 August 1980 when Anna Walentynowicz, a 51-year-old crane driver at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, was fired for her political stance. In a swift response to what they saw as unjust, the other shipyard workers went out on strike demanding both her reinstatement and pay rise.

The man who led the opposition movement was Lech Wałęsa, a former electrician at the shipyard who had previously been sacked by management, too, and for the same reason.

Towards 11 o’clock in the morning that same day, amid the events threatening to jeopardize planned protests and to endanger his activist colleagues, Wałęsa, locked outside the shipyard, climbed over the wall in order to assume leadership of the strike and to prevent further escalation.

This scaling of the wall became legendary and turned it into a symbol of the idea of freedom in Poland. The section of wall on Robotnicza Street over which Wałęsa had climbed into the closed shipyard was cut out and placed on display next to a section of the Berlin Wall between the shipyards and railway station, where it proudly stood until being destroyed by a car crashing into it. Currently rebuilt, the wall fragment stands outside of the Solidarity headquarters, a short walk from the shipyard gates.

Walking Tours in Gdansk, Poland

Create Your Own Walk in Gdansk

Create Your Own Walk in Gdansk

Creating your own self-guided walk in Gdansk is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Gdansk's Historical Churches Tour

Gdansk's Historical Churches Tour

Gdansk has a long history of Catholicism, hence the many impressive churches found in the city. In Gdansk you will see some of the most spectacular medieval religious buildings, such as St. Mary's Church, St. Nicolas Church, and other churches that distinguish themselves as part of the urban landscape. Take this self-guided walking tour to discover the historic churches of Gdansk.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Gdansk Introduction Walking Tour

Gdansk Introduction Walking Tour

The most probable source for the name, "Gdansk" seems to be "Gdania", the ancient name of the river Motlawa. Gdansk began with agriculture and fishing and trade with Pomerania in the 9th century. It was annexed by Mieszko, Duke of Poland, in 975.

The center of town was the Long Market, with its craftsmen. German merchant settlements grew by St Nicholas Church. Gdansk joined...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles