Poland has begun celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Solidarnosc, or Solidarity, trade union movement which helped end communism in the country. An international conference in Warsaw was among the first of three days of events marking the occasion. The gathering included senior political leaders and activists from around the world.
The main focus was on Lech Walesa, the founder of Solidarnosc, who went on to become his country’s president. The 62-year-old, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, addressed a special session of parliament earlier in the day. The independent trade union no longer wields the same power it eventually acquired after its creation. But its role in forging a new Poland cannot 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 in the region.