Three days of events to mark the 25th anniversary of Poland’s Solidarnosc – or Solidarity – free trade union have been launched in the country’s parliament.The guest speaker was Lech Walensa, who founded the movement which helped end communist rule in Poland. He was introduced as “the universally recognisable symbol of Poland”. He told the chamber: “It was in us, in our hearts and minds that something had started which would change the face of the earth.” The independent trade union no longer wields the same power it eventually acquired after its creation a quarter of a century ago. Its membership has dropped from a peak of 10 million to around 700,000 today. But its role in forging a new Poland can not be denied. A series of strikes which began at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980 undermined the communist regime. The union is credited with inspiring similar protest movements across eastern Europe which ultimately led to the demise of communism across the region.