25 years ago Europe was different - divided. The iron curtain separated the nations living in freedom from those that could only dream about being free. It had seemed that this was a permanent state and all hope should be abandoned. All uprisings of those who yearned for freedom in the Soviet empire were struck down in bloodshed. The guardian of the order, which was created at the Yalta conference, was an army of millions of soldiers, which had nuclear weapons at its disposal.
In 1980, a year after Pope John Paul II had given courage to his fellow countrymen during his visit to Poland, hope was restored in Gdansk, a hope that triumphed over fear; Solidarity was born. The scale of civil disobedience in the whole country and the amazing ability of 10 million people to organize themselves into an independent trade union paralysed the communist regime. The strikes in the cities of the Polish coast echoed everywhere around the world, and the face of the charismatic union leader, Lech Walesa, became known on every continent. The freedom movement took the form of a trade union, which was the most problematic Form for the "state of workers", and because the world's attention was focused on the Gdansk Shipyard, it was very difficult for the government to launch a military intervention. In December 1981, when the communist regime finally decided to counteract by introducing martial law, it was already too late. Nothing could stop this nation any more, for it had regained its dignity and was now aspiring to freedom. Solidarity was the first sign of civil awakening all over Central and Eastern Europe.
The peaceful character of Solidarity's ethos made this movement exceptional and was its precious legacy. This was also illustrated by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Lech Walesa in 1983. The bloodless revolution of 1989 became the example of a peaceful and democratic political transformation. The 1989 "Autumn of Revolutions" restored freedom in Central and Eastern Europe.
Thus, August of 1980 became legendary. It triggered inspiration in artists, both professionals and amateurs, whose works assisted the workers' protests and helped encourage the people during the harsh period of martial law. That August had been the inspiration for Andrzej Wajda's Film "Man of Iron", which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981. It inspired artists beyond Poland, too.
The large number of artworks inspired by the August of 1980 and by Solidarity is a symbol of that era, but it also conveys a universal message, which is becoming highly relevant in the times of a global terror threat. Solidarity showed that it is possible to achieve far-reaching goals and change history without resorting to violence, which brings only pain and suffering to innocent people.
"In collective memory the emergence of SOLIDARITY can be described by the following formula: August 1980 = June 1956 + March 1968 + December 1970 + June 1976,'
"It was on 14th August before the first shift. We were hoping that after a few hours, maybe after one day at most, the manager would withdraw the dismissal and all things would return back to normal. People were gathering in front of the posters, they were reading the leaflets that were being handed out, but there was nothing about the strike was beginning. Indignation at the management was increasing, the need to manifest dissent together was growing in people's minds, but fear was still predominant..."Walentynowicz's poster reminiscences are an occasion to remind that
"in August 1980 in the central canteen of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk an exhibition of photograms and 33 posters from the National Theatre, which was founded in 1765 by the Polish king Stanislaw II August Poniatowski, was taking place. The exhibition was organized on behalf of the National Theatre by Wladyslaw Serwatowski, press and advertising expert. After leaving the Gdansk Shipyard the exhibition will be displayed in the Maritime Culture House (Morski Dom Kultury) in the Gdansk New Port and also in other cultural institutions of the Gdansk coastal region."This is the way a newspaper of the shipbuilding industry, the "Shipyard Worker's Voice" ("Glos Stoczniowca"), issue no. 1641 from 8th August 1980, informed about the exhibition. Together with the article there appeared a black and white photograph with posters by Henryk Tomaszewski, Jan Lenica, Marcin Mroszczak and Jerzy Czerniawski.
- exhibition scenario, commissioner and catalogue editor