Yesterday, on the Day of Solidarity and Freedom, we marked the 40th anniversary of the Gdańsk Agreement and thereby the foundation of Solidarity. We pay tribute to all those nameless heroes who were killed, imprisoned, tortured or deported in the struggle for an independent Poland.
Thinking about this victorious day at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, we must emphasize the role of Anna Walentynowicz, without whom the mid-August strike, sparked by her firing, would have been crushed by the security apparatus. In 2005, Anna Walentynowicz received the Medal of Freedom, one of the most significant American awards; in 2020 Time magazine recognized her as one of the 100 women who defined the 20th century, rightly calling her the "Mother of Polish Independence."
We pay homage to the heroism of the Poles during World War II, which broke out on this day 81 years ago. The brutal invasion of Poland by two imperialist aggressors ought to revitalize the notion that there is no greater threat to our civilization than totalitarianism, hostile to the ideas of independence, freedom, democracy and, above all, God.
The Soviet-German confederacy, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was the catalyst for the outbreak of World War II. Poland, unlike other European countries, rejected all attempts to form a collaborationist government, established a government-in-exile, and maintained an underground state. Motivated by faith and love for the homeland, Polish soldiers fought gallantly for independence both at home and across the continent.
This enormous spiritual strength and patriotism, notwithstanding the enormous bloodshed, the razed capital city of Warsaw, and destroyed towns and villages, was the driving force behind the sustained struggle for independence following World War II.
The indomitable soldiers, members of anti-communist resistance movements in the later stages and aftermath of World War II, gave the oppressed Poles hope. Inspired by these freedom fighters, there was a spirit of opposition to the Soviet occupation. Notably, Black One, a scout troop at the Tadeusz Reytan High School in Warsaw, organized aid for the persecuted workers in Radom, Ursus and Płock. It was as a result of the activity of Black One that the Workers' Defense Committee (KOR), the forerunner of Solidarity, was established in 1976.
The objective of KOR was to support workers imprisoned and their distressed families as well as the rebuilding of the structures of an independent Poland, with a vibrant free press, diverse political parties, independent educational institutions, and self-governing trade unions. This program, implemented by Solidarity, brought together people from all social strata and political viewpoints.
The dedicated service of the clergy, both during World War II and afterward during the Soviet occupation, was pivotal, as exemplified by the work of Saint John Paul the Great, the Primate of the Millennium Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Cardinal August Hlond, and Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha.
Many priests and nuns were martyred by the German and Soviet occupiers, including the Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, the Solidarity chaplain murdered at the hands of the communist regime. Recalling the rise of Solidarity and the Polish path to regain independence, we will always remember those who perished at Katyń and Smoleńsk. The Katyń massacre was the extermination of 22,000 of Poland's intelligentsia by the Soviets, as commanded by Joseph Stalin.
President Lech Kaczyński died when his aircraft exploded over Smoleńsk en route to an observance marking the Katyń massacre, killing all 96 people on board. President Kaczyński fought for independence, not only of Poland, but also for the rest of Central Europe, plus Georgia, Ukraine and the Baltic states, exemplifying his uncompromising attitude toward Russia.
Finally, we emphasize the role of the Polish diaspora, relentlessly advocating for Poland on the world stage in tandem with Saint John Paul the Great. Their efforts encouraged President Ronald Reagan to support Solidarity during martial law, leading to the fall of the Iron Curtain. We recall World War II and Solidarity in world history, not only to commemorate the past, but also to show the values that led Poles to regain an independent, democratic and just state.
Antoni Macierewicz is Senior Speaker of Parliament, Republic of Poland.
Edmund Janniger is the Director of the International Security Forum, an institution under the patronage of the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Poland. His work at the Ministry of National Defense encompasses academic affairs and global engagement. Mr. Janniger holds the record as the youngest sub-cabinet official in Poland's history. In the Parliamentary Office, Mr. Janniger has been the Deputy Chief of Staff to Minister Antoni Macierewicz and, during the 2015 elections, was the Deputy Campaign Manager for Law and Justice in the 10th District. Mr. Janniger has a proven track record directing complex political and policy-related matters. He holds an adjunct appointment at Marconi University, and was elected by the full Rutgers University Senate to three terms on its Executive Committee. Mr. Janniger splits his time between the Warsaw and New York metropolitan areas, has one young dog, and is an avid hiker. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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