The leader of Solidarity and former president Lech Wałęsa had to skip this year's anniversary celebrations of the August Agreements due to his poor health. Stepping in for him, his wife Danuta, delivered a speech in which she compared the current government to the communist regime.
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Since 2014, celebrations commemorating the birth of Solidarity followed a similar routine. They began before noon with the laying of flowers at the Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers and opening the historic Gate No. 2- just like in 1980. This time, however, the leader of Solidarity Lech Wałęsa wasn’t there to witness it. The former president commented on his absence during TVN’s Tuesday evening news broadcast:

- I gave Poland everything I could, to the best of my abilities, strength, and wisdom. Now, being tired and sick, I decided to just take care of myself- he said.

But his wife, Danuta Wałęsa, who was named an honorary citizen of Gdańsk last week, took part in the ceremony. Her speech at the historic gate was brief but very blunt.

- This government wants to erase Wałęsa, it destroyed our solidarity, and the current members of the Solidarity Trade Union are thieves who stole its original spirit. This is just like the communist regime, these people should not be in power- said Danuta Wałęsa, and added: - My dream is for women to take over and start governing. Men can help us from the back seat, if we let them.

Her words were met with thunderous applause from the audience gathered at the square.

Head of the Gdańsk City Council, Agnieszka Owczarczak, recalled that the former first lady received honorary citizenship last week not only because of her attitude during the communist era but also, on an a more symbolic level, it was a gesture of appreciation for all the women and men who supported Solidarity but remained in the shadows until now.

Fot. Martyna Niećko / Agencja

"There would be no glasnost and perestroika without Solidarity and Wałęsa"

Other speakers at the ceremony included the renowned member of Solidarity Bogdan Lis, the Marshal of Pomerania Mieczysław Struk, but also Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of the European Commission.

- August 31, 1980, was my 18th birthday. I came of age then, also politically, and the person who taught me about political maturity was Lech Wałęsa- said Schinas, who is of Greek descent. - It may have been the first time that Poles taught a lesson in democracy to Greeks, but believe me, it was a powerful lesson. Wałęsa and his colleagues started something that was the beginning of the end of tyranny in Europe. Today, on the day Mikhail Gorbachev passed away, it must be said that there would have been no glasnost and perestroika without Solidarity and Wałęsa. The same spirit of solidarity that was here then is needed today more than ever as we confront new authoritarianism and Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, as well as the energy and inflation crisis.

In Europe, we are strong when we are united, just as we were united during the emigration, economic or pandemic crisis. Certain people want to convince Poles that Poland is alone and isolated in Europe. This is not true. Poland is part of Europe and will remain so. Freedom, democracy, the European way of life, and values will always stand up to tyranny and authoritarianism. That's how it was back then and that's how it will remain, there are simply more of us- the European Commission vice president concluded.


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