Poland takes pride in SolidarityPoland takes pride in Solidarity
The former Polish President Lech Walesa has paid tribute to the independent trade union Solidarity which played a key role in the collapse of communism. The strike by Solidarity members "changed the face of the Earth," Mr Walesa told the Polish parliament. He was launching three days of celebrations on the 25th anniversary of Solidarity, founded by him and fellow shipyard workers in Gdansk.
Russia stays away as Poland celebrates 25 years of Solidarity
The democratically elected leaders of former Soviet republics will be there. But the President of Russia will not. It is an anniversary the Kremlin would rather forget. Foreign delegations are making their way to Poland today to pay their respects at events marking the 25th anniversary of the birth of Solidarity, the first free trade union of Communist eastern Europe. Solidarity's former leader Lech Walesa, the electrician turned president who transformed the workers' organisation into a rival for political power with the Communist Party, will make a speech claiming that the Solidarity movement ended the Cold War, set hundreds of millions of people free far beyond the borders of Poland, and enabled the creation of a truly united Europe. Vaclaw Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic who led his country's "velvet revolution" towards democracy in 1989, has publicly thanked Poland for beginning the popular struggle against Communism in 1980, far earlier than any country in the region. There wasn't even a small sign of changes in Czechoslovakia then," Mr Havel said on Friday. "But the events in Poland ... had a definite influence on future changes here and in other countries from the Communist bloc." Some Poles see Solidarity's final victory in 1989 as a shameful compromise by the trade union leadership with tyrants, and resent the presence of President Alexander Kwasniewski, himself a former Communist, at what has been billed a celebration of freedom.