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Gdansk - on the path of freedom

There are many fantastic places worth visiting to stand face to face with the spirit of the past and feel the mood of that time. Especially for you, we prepared descriptions of places worth including on your must see list.

The Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers (2/11)

The Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers
The Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers
Fot. by Marek Angiel

Less than three hundred metres separate the “Paths to Freedom” exhibition area from the place on which the attention of the world was focused twice: in 1970 and in 1980.
On December 14, 1970, shipyard workers in Gdansk learned about the governmental price increases for meat and other goods. Thousands of workers leaved the factory in a protest and took to the streets of the city to reach the seat of the Voivodeship committee of the ruling party. Groups of students and accidental passers-by were joining the shipyard workers. Riots resulted. The Gdansk protest expanded to other cities in Poland: Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg. The authorities sent 550 tanks, 700 armoured personnel carriers, 5 000 Militia officials and 27 000 soldiers against the rioters. The army surrounded the Gdansk Shipyard. When the workers tried to leave the plant and go to the city, live ammunition was shot at them. At least four protesters were killed; almost one hundred were injured.
“Tanks were standing literally under our windows”, says teacher Halina Pusz, an inhabitant of the block of flats standing near the shipyard. “When the army opened fire, mum ordered us to hide in the bathroom. I was very young then, I remember being afraid.
The army and the militia also violently suppressed the protests, also in Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg. The summary of the tragedy: 45 people dead, nearly 1200 injured, 3 thousand people imprisoned. The authorities were hiding the data concerning the number of casualties and repressions. In many cases, those killed were buried in secret, at nights.
When another strike started in the Gdansk Shipyard in August 1980, the regime did not dare to restore to violence. It was only done sixteen months later when the martial law was introduced in the entire country.
The shipyard workers managed to commemorate their colleagues fallen in December 1970. They built a huge monument on a circle plan in the square, consisting of three crosses connected by arms; the monument is 42 m high and weighs 126 tons. An anchor is attached to each cross – a symbol of faith and hope that is also associated with shipbuilding. Bas-reliefs presenting allegories of the work of a shipyard worker, national solidarity and the society’s clashes with the regime were included in the bottom part of the monument. The words of the Psalm of David: “The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace” and a fragment of a poem by Czesław Miłosz accompany them. A quarter of a million people came to the unveiling of the monument on December 16, 1980. After the introduction of the martial law, the communists did not decide to disassemble the monument even though the square in front of the shipyard was a scene of illegal demonstrations and clashes with the militia. The Security Service (SB) was identifying and photographing persons laying flowers under the monument. Cordons of the militia armed with shields and truncheons defended the access to the monument.