Every year on the 30th of August Poland celebrates the anniversary of the Gdańsk Agreement by which workers at the Lenin shipyards in Gdańsk achieved the right to form independent trade unions.
Totally empty shelves in shops in Central Europe served as the best illustration of communist economy of scarcity (production was going on according to 5 year plans and everybody was working, but there was literally nothing to buy in shops).
The agreement signed by Lech Walesa was the effect of many years of struggles and strikes led by many other leaders of workers movements such as Anna Walentynowicz or Andrzej Gwiazda. Solidarity was acknowledged as the first free workers union in the then communist world of the East and Central Europe. That struggle of the Polish workers initiated dramatic political changes not only in Poland but ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union and the whole communist bloc.
“History must give the Poles the principal credit for bringing the Soviet bloc to its knees,” says Norman Davies in his book “Europe, A History”.
“Poland is not East or West. Poland is at the center of European civilization. It has contributed mightily to that civilization. It is doing so today by being magnificently unreconcilled to oppression.”’ (President R.Reagan) and “Do not be afraid !” (Pope John II)
John Paul II has been credited with being instrumental in bringing down communism in Central and Eastern Europe, by giving his spiritual inspiration to its downfall.
“And I cry, I who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II, I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost, let your Spirit descend, let your Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth, the face of this land”.
These words of Pope John Paul II pronounced in Warsaw in June 1979, the Polish citizens understood as the incentive for the democratic changes and inspiration for a peaceful revolution in Poland.
John Paul II was supporting the Solidarity Movement (Solidarność) from its very beginning. In June 1979, John Paul II gave back to his people their history, their culture, and their identity.
In doing so, he gave Poles spiritual tools of resistance that communism could not match.