FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE FALL OF COMMUNISM IN POLAND
"Famous people who
contributed to the fall
of communism in
Our way to
John Paul II - Karol Józef Wojtyła
18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005; was the head of the Catholic Church from 16
October 1978 to his death in 2005. He was the second longest-serving pope
The election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as Pope meant a lot for the Polish
people. They started to believe that they became important for the world.
From then on, everybody could hear about Poland and about its difficult
After John Paul II’s first pilgrimage to Poland (in June 1979) people
became more powerful and brave, they believed that they could change the
system in Poland.
The Pope was against communism and he gave a lot of support to Polish
people during those difficult times.
Anna Walentynowicz was a free trade union activist, a co-founder and a
prominent member of Solidarity Trade Union.
In 1950 she was employed at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk as a welder. For
participation in the illegal trade union she was fired in August 1980, five
months before she was about to retire. That event ignited the strike in the
shipyard, which soon gave way to a wave of strikes throughout Poland
making it the largest strike ever. Her name became the slogan of the strike:
“Bring Anna Walentynowicz back to work!”
The Interfactory Strike Committee was transformed into Solidarity Trade
Union. When it was registered shortly after the Gdansk Agreement, it had
nearly ten million members, the world's largest union to date.
Born in 1929, she died in a plane crash near Smolensk on 10th of April in
2010 along with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria Kaczynska
and many other prominent Polish people. Anna Waletynowicz is now
widely regarded as “mother of independent Poland”.
Born in 1934 in Lviv. Died in 2004 in Warsaw. He was one of the
democratic leaders of opposition in the People’s Republic of Poland. He is
widely known as the „Godfather of the Polish opposition” - similar to
Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia.
Kuron was a prominent Polish social and political figure largely responsible
for theorizing the movement that brought the back of communism, an
ideology he had initially tried to reform.
Kuron started out as an activist of the Polish Scouting Association trying to
educate young people that would take charge of the future; he later co-
founded the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR), a major dissident
organization that was replaced by Solidarity in August 1980.
After the changes in independent Poland, he served twice as Minister of
Labour and Social Policy.
Born on September 29th 1943 in Popowo, Poland. He is a Polish
politician, trade-union organizer, and human-rights activist. A charismatic
leader, he co-founded Solidarity, the Soviet bloc's first independent trade
union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of
Poland between 1990 and 1995.
Walesa, the son of a carpenter, received only primary and vocational
education and in 1967 began work as an electrician at the huge Lenin
Shipyard in Gdansk. He witnessed the 1970 food riots in Gdansk in which
the communist militia forces killed a number of demonstrators. When new
protests against Poland’s communist government erupted in 1976, Walesa
emerged as an antigovernment union activist and lost his job as a result.
On August 14, 1980 Walesa took charge of an Interfactory Strike
Committee that united the enterprises of the Gdansk-Sopot-Gdynia area.
This committee issued a set of bold political demands, including the right
to strike and form free trade unions, and it proclaimed a general strike.
Fearing a national revolt, the communist authorities yielded to the workers’
principal demands, and on August 31 Walesa and Mieczyslaw Jagielski, the
representative of the communist government, signed an agreement
conceding to the workers the right to organize freely and independently.
When some 10 million Polish workers and farmers joined semiautonomous
unions in response to this momentous agreement, the Interfactory Strike
Committee was transformed into a national federation of unions under the
name Solidarity, with Walesa as its chairman and chief spokesman.
Born in 1953. A former opposition activist, now with her husband runs a
family orphanage in Gdansk.
On August 15, 1980 she stopped a tram she was driving when hearing about
the beginning of a strike at Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk. That way she
provoked the general strike in Gdansk and Pomerania, which later spread
all over Poland and led to the registration of Solidarity Trade Union.
During the Martial Law she helped the interned opposition leaders and
remained active in the underground movement. She survived a severe
beating by the secret police that left her unable to have children. Unlike
other former opposition leaders from Gdansk, she withdrew from politics
The Independent Self-governing Trade Union “Solidarity” is a
Polish, nationwide trade union organization that emerged on 31 August
1980 at the Gdansk Shipyard under the leadership of Lech Walesa. It was
the first non-communist-party controlled trade union in the communist
block of countries.
Solidarity reached 9.5 million members before its September 1981 Congress
(up to 10 million) that constituted one third of the total working age
population of Poland. In its clandestine years, the USA provided significant
financial support for Solidarity, estimated to be as much as 50 million US
In the 1980s, Solidarity was a broad anti-bureaucratic social
movement, using the methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of
workers' rights and social change. The government attempted to destroy
the union during the period of martial law in the early 1980 and several
years of political repression, but in the end it was forced to negotiate with
The Round Table Talks between the government and the Solidarity-led
opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a
Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December 1990
Walesa was elected President of Poland. Since then it has become a more
traditional, liberal trade union.
30 years after emerging, the Solidarity’s membership dropped to between
just over 400,000 and 680,000.