Monument to the Shipyard Workers
Monument to the Shipyard Workers Gdansk Reviews
Monument to the Shipyard Workers Aug 28, 2013
The Monument to the Shipyard Workers was the first monument erected to commemorate the victims of communism to be built in a communist country. It marks the place where the first workers were killed in a 1970 strike, and was erected following another strike in 1980. In the end, 45 people died during protracted riots in 1970.
The monument is three tall steel crosses in a plaza, ringed with monuments not just to the dead but to other heroes of Solidarity and other victims of totalitarian states. There are quotes from Pope John Paul II and from the poet Czeslaw Milosz: “You who have harmed a simple man, mocking him with your laughter, you kill him, someone else will be born, and your deeds and words will be written down.” Lech Walesa described the monument as a harpoon; no matter how hard the whale of a state tried to shake it out, it still stayed there. The right to construct the monument was a key demand in the 1980 strike, along with other limited rights, and the monument came to be an important symbol and rallying point for Solidarity.
The effect it has today is rather different from the one it must have had thirty years ago. It is, for a start, easy to forget just how massive a victory being allowed to erect it was. And it is parked right outside the former gates of the number two entrance to the Lenin shipyard (Gdansk shipyard). Workers must have filed past it every day – a massive salute to their courage in striking in the face of the tanks. The hardline communists and shipyard supervisors must have had to look at it every day – a mark of their failure to stamp out rebellion, and a sign that they couldn’t keep the workforce down. Now, the realities of world trade have meant that the yards have not been profitable and have contracted, although some ships are still built. The gates are quiet, and the monument stands (downright eerily when I was there) alone in a sea of post-industrial wasteland and a building site. But the building site is for a new conference centre which will include a Roads to Freedom museum and a library, and the gates will be busy again. The monument is still a potent symbol; the flowers are fresh and there are still regular visitors.
Entrance to the area is free. It is about a 20 minute walk out of the city centre; I am sure it is on bus routes too.
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