World Biography

Anna Walentynowicz: Polish Worker's Hero

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Anna Walentynowicz: Polish Worker's Hero

Anna Walentynowicz: Polish Worker's Hero

Anna Walentynowicz, the shipyard worker whose dismissal by the authorities sparked the Solidarity Shipyard strike that eventually brought down Polish Communism and freed Poland from Soviet Russian domination, died in a plane crash along with Poland's President and many other Polish luminaries on April 10, 2010.

Anna Walentynowicz was born at Rwne, Poland in 1929. Her parents were killed in World War Two. Anna Walentynowicz began working in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland in 1950, first as a welder, later as a crane operator. Walentynowicz soon became disillusioned with the Polish communist party as she realized that workers were not allowed to organize into trade unions and that their neeeds and concerns were not addressed by the authorities. Walentynowicz began her campaign for worker's justice when one of her superiors stole money from shipyard employees.

Walentynowicz was a member of the Free Trade Unions of the Coast in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and she also came to symbolize the opposition movement visually by appearing as a stout female worker in many propaganda posters. As the editor of the underground newspaper Robotnik Wybrzeza ('The Coastal Worker'), Walentynowicz openly distributed her illegal newspaper in person at the shipyard, often handing it directly to her supervisors. For participation in the illegal trade union she was fired from work on August 7,1980, only five months before she was scheduled to retire. This management decision enraged the workers, who staged a labor strike on August 14. In the aftermath of the strike, Walentynowicz and Lech Walesa, who had also been fired, were returned to work, the Gdansk Agreement was signed and soon afterward the Solidarity trade union was formed.

Several years later Walentynowicz left Solidarity, criticizing Walesa's policies. After the fall of Communism in 1989 she still distanced herself from the union and various political parties allied with Solidarity. In January 2005 she received the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom in Washington D.C. on behalf of Solidarity from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.



Anna Walentynowicz, whose sacking led to the rise of Solidarity--The Guardian, April 10, 2010


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