Published: August 20, 2015
Hundreds of people, including former government officials, members of Gazeta Polska clubs, leading Solidarity activists, Gdańsk citizens, and the family of late Anna Walentynowicz killed in the tragic Smolensk crash, gathered to celebrate the unveiling of her statue in Wrzeszcze, Gdańsk.
The erection of her monument was possible thanks to the efforts of the Dignity Society (Stowarzyszenie Godność). The Monument was funded by donations, mainly from the Solidarity members. Cast in bronze, the statue of Anna Walentynowicz is placed on a granite pedestal. It was designed and created by Stanisław Milewski, the author of Pope John Paul II monument and Ronald Reagan’s statute at Nadmorski Park in Gdańk.
The monument was erected in Anna Walentynowicz’s square, situated a few meters away from the apartment building she lived in. The unveiling was led by her son, Janusz, and grandchildren, Katarzyna and Piotr Walentynowicz. “I am very happy. For us, as a family, it matters that our grandmother is remembered because her contribution in the fight against communism is invaluable,” said Piotr Walentynowicz. “I am extremely touched and I wish to thank all those who gathered here, I have not expected such large number of people. I would like this statue to be a symbol of something that we regard as normality, something to remind us all that we can live and work for the common good and not just our personal gain. To remind us that we are surrounded by people less adaptive and weaker, people who need our help. This is what my mother did all her life – helped others,” said Janusz Walentynowicz.
The statue was consecrated by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Gdańsk, Sławoj Leszek Głódź, who was indignant that it took 5 years since Walentynowicz’s death to erect her monument. “We don’t know, but we hope that God regarded Anna Walentynowicz as a martyr of Poland and as a national hero. Anna was waiting for this statue for a long time because 5 years to commemorate the Smolensk victim is a long time. What are we waiting for, why haven’t we appropriately commemorated all victims of the Smolensk crash yet?” asked the Archbishop.
President Andrzej Duda sent the following letter for this occasion:
Dear Organisers and Participants gathered to pay tribute to Anna Walentynowicz,
I would like to send my best regards to all those gathered here to witness the unveiling of the statue in the memory of Anna Walentynowicz. Knowing that this prominent figure is getting recognition today in the square named after her, located so close to Grunwaldzka Street where she lived, makes me extremely happy.
Anna Walentynowicz played a key role in the contemporary history of Poland. Her service to the Free Trade Unions and the Solidarity Movement, both of which she co-founded, cannot be appreciated enough. Anna’s dismissal from Gdańsk Shipyard was one of key reasons for the outbreak of historic 1980s strikes in Poland. She was one of the bravest activists of the democratic opposition movement but at the same time she opposed the most extreme ways of fighting against the communist security apparatus. Thanks to historical research we know today that Anna was under strict surveillance carried out by more than one hundred officers and agents of the SB (communist security forces). She endured it all with admirable strength and determination, prepared to fight against totalitarian oppression until the very end, prepared to fight for freedom and human rights for every man.
Anna was also exceptionally sensitive to human suffering. She herself experienced many hardships and perhaps that experience made her deeply respectful towards others, in particular towards those, who were wronged and humiliated. Her hospitality, generosity, her dedication and readiness to help, were known to all. She welcomed in her modest abode everyone, opposition activists or just ordinary people, and whether she knew them or not, she shared all she had with them. I personally think that her attitude towards others, and her ability to shape social relations based on mutual respect and dignity, makes her a role model for us all.
Despite the fact that she committed her entire professional and personal life to service to her country and her compatriots, the independent Poland failed to properly appreciate Anna’s role. She was only brought from oblivion and appropriately honoured by President Professor Lech Kaczyński, who awarded her with the highest distinction of the Polish state – the Order of the White Eagle. I find it extraordinarily symbolic that the death claimed these two great figures on the same day of the tragic morning of April 10, 2010 in Smolensk. They died on a mission for our country. This statue will always remind us about the beautiful Anna Walentynowicz, and the everlasting values she embodies.
President of the Republic of Poland
Antoni Macierewicz, deputy chairman of the Law and Justice Party, read a letter written by Jarosław Kaczyński, and added his post scriptum: “First time I met Anna in 1977. She was our Joanna d’Arc, she was the one who could differentiate between truths and lies, distinguish authenticity from falsehood and independence from the urge to please the higher authority. Her death is as significant as her life has been. We hope that her death will be explained and her body will be found one day. We promise to establish the truth!”
“Anna Walentynowicz could have become a celebrity after 1989, with a beautiful house and regular photo shoots for popular magazines, and yet she remained faithful to the ideals of August 1980. The price she paid was enormous; she became a hate-figure, meetings were cancelled if her attendance was noticed, and attempts were made to remove her from the Polish history books. She was approached by the SB (Communist Security Forces) many times and pushed into collaboration with them. She never wavered. And today we have this monument, which symbolises the victory of human strength and perseverance in the fight for what we believe in,” said Prof. Sławomir Cenckiewicz, who was Anna Walentynowicz’s biographer.
“Anna Walentynowicz’s life is a metaphor of the Polish destiny,” said Paweł Adamowicz, the mayor of Gdańsk. “Anna Walentynowicz was a gantry operator, and yet she changed the world history. For us, citizens of Gdańsk, she shall always remain a symbol of our city, our times and the proof of how the destiny of Polish people can become very complex,” emphasised Adamowicz and urged those living nearby the square to look after statue. “Anna used to be your neighbour, so please accept this statue as a symbol that she is back. Please, look after this monument and its surroundings, so Anna is always remembered.”
“There would be no Solidarity and no freedom without Anna Walentynowicz,” said Piotr Duda, the National President of the Solidarity Trade Union.
The strongest message came from Andrzej Gwiazda, the co-founder of Polish WZZ (Free Trade Unions) and a friend of Anna in the 1980s. “We have to face the fact that both Anna Walentynowicz and Lech Kaczyński were murdered for political reasons. To avoid this truth means supporting their murderers. The assassins have to be caught and it is important that we know their motives. Anybody who wants to remain ignorant about this matter allows murder to become a weapon in political battle,” said Gwiazda, adding that the memory of the Smolensk crash victims remains alive amongst the Polish people. “We won in 1980 and we won in 2015. Those claiming that we have no power, tell lies. It is thanks to people who stood up against the lies, that we have this monument and we have our new president. Today, we are celebrating the great legacy of Anna Walentynowicz,” stated Gwiazda, who was awarded with ovation from the crowd. “Since 1989, Anna was faced with indifference from the Polish media and opportunistic journalists, who followed the orders. The powerful and mysterious enemy who imposed this conspiracy of silence is still around, hiding behind our backs, and we still need to fight it. 5 years ago Anna Walentynowicz died a heroic death. A person who fights for the fatherland and dies on the frontline is a hero. And Anna Walentynowicz died on the frontline.”
Among the guests was Józef Popiełuszko, brother of the Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko.
Anna Walentynowicz, if alive, would be 86. In 1978 she became the activist of Free Trade Unions of the Baltic Coast. On August 7, 1980, just five month before her retirement, she was disciplinary dismissed from the Gdańsk Shipyard. Her dismissal sparked a strike on August 14, during which the Solidarity Movement was born. “Bring Anna Walentynowicz Back to Work” became the organising slogan for the striking employees at the Gdansk shipyard.
Walentynowicz became a member of the Inter-Factory Strike Committee and Presidium of Inter-Institute Founding Committee (MKZ - Międzyzakładowy Komitet Założycielski) of NSZZ Solidarity. She was interned during the martial law, and arrested several times. She died on April 10, 2010 in the Smolensk crash, during the presidential flight heading to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Katyn Massacre.
Source: niezalezna.pl, wpolityce.pl, polskieradio.pl
Photo: PAP Adam Warżawa
A letter dated August 8, 1980 from Edward Slaby, Director of Human Resources at Gdansk
Shipyard, to Anna Walentynowicz Director informing her of the termination of her employment effective immediately for taking part in the strike between July 29 and August 1, 1980, and August 4-5, 1980.