On September 17, 1980, a group of Polish workers, who’d been on strike for a month at the Gdansk Shipyard protesting the firing of Anna Walentynowicz, a popular crane operator and activist, formed a nationwide trade union they called Solidarność. Solidarity almost immediately became a watchword for protest against the repressions of the communist state in Poland. (Walentynowicz died just this past April at the age of 79.)
On November 9, many members of the international press corps that swarmed to the Baltic to chronicle the rise of the movement that led, nine years later on that very date, to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in Europe, will gather in New York to celebrate the founding of Solidarity. For much of Central and Eastern Europe 11/9 (or as it is often expressed in Europe calendars, 9 November or 9/11) is as much an occasion for celebration and commemoration as those same digits are for mourning in America.
So on this evening, November 9, under the sponsorship of the Overseas Press Club of America and the Consul General of Poland Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, a reunion of that band of international reporters, joined by some of their Polish counterparts, will gather, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Polish Consulate at 233 Madison Avenue (corner of 37th Street). For months, the OPC and the Polish Consul General, who was herself one of the local journalists who breached the wall in 1980 and took the courageous path of challenging the armed power of the Polish state, have searched for reporters, editors, photographers, technicians, translators — indeed any who played a role in those historic days, or the events that led up to that moment and their consequences as the 1980s moved to their dramatic conclusion. At least thirty participants will be joining us. More are coming forward every day. The OPC and the Polish Consulate welcome as well any who may be interested in learning more about those momentous times.
Coming from Poland will be Konstanty Gebert, a leading Polish journalist, one of the founders of the Flying University, the underground educational institution founded in 1978, served as a founder of Solidarity and since 1992 has served as a correspondent for Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland’s leading dailies; and Henry Wujec, a leader of the Solidarity party in the Polish Parliament.
The evening will begin at 5 p.m. with drinks and an opportunity to view a dramatic exhibition assembled by the Polish government of the events that gave birth to a free Poland and that will be touring the United States over the next two months. At 6 p.m., we will assemble in the consulate’s meeting room and allow each participant a few minutes to share his or her single most graphic memory. CBS News correspondent Bert Quint will be bringing video of some of his most vivid reporting from the scene. And print journalists from The New York Times, including John Darnton, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting — the first from the scene — and others from the Associated Press, Time Magazine and a host of other news organizations, will be on hand as well.
To facilitate record-keeping and for security at the door of the consulate, the OPC asks all who may attend to notify the OPC office 212-626-9220 or e-mail email@example.com. Spouses and friends are welcome.