European Solidarity Center
Learn about Poland's fight for freedom through displays that combine state-of-the-art interactive experiences and real artifacts. Across seven halls, the European Solidarity Centre aims to "become the world's center for the ideas of freedom, democracy and solidarity to be fostered." The 5-story building, which has been designed to give the impression of walls cracking and tilting and is covered in rust-colored sheet metal reminiscent of a ship's hull, was opened in 2014 next to the entrance to the Gdansk Shipyards.
The story of Solidarity
The building is centered around a permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of the process which led to the democratic transformation of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. A viewing terrace on the roof allows visitors to look out over the remains of the Lenin Shipyards where the Solidarity movement was born. The exhibition tells the story of Solidarity — where it began, how it grew and ultimately where it led the people of Poland and the occupied countries of the Communist Bloc.
Fight for freedom
The first hall, "The Birth of Solidarność," is devoted to the strikes of August 1980. You'll see the cab of crane operator Anna Walentynowicz, whose sacking caused the shipyard to rise in protest. Materials salvaged from the shipyard are used to tell the story with interactive terminals and archive film. The next hall, "The Power of the Powerless" allows you to see the world that preceded the strikes of 1980. It gives you an insight into the roots of the opposition movement and what the totalitarian regime looked and felt like. Next, you'll enter "Solidarność and Hope." It's here that you get a sense of the unexpected and unfamiliar freedom the strikes bought the country in August 1980 until the movement was outlawed and the country placed under Martial Law in late 1981. In "The War with Society," you are graphically given a sense of how freedom and hope of was systematically destroyed by the terror of the Martial Law period. Next is "The Road to Democracy," which demonstrates the important role played by Polish-born Pope John Paul II. His messages of hope delivered during his pilgrimages to his homeland fueled the struggle for freedom and inspired people to renew their fight. ‘The triumph of Freedom' in the final hall shows how the changes in Poland reverberated across the Communist Bloc as country after country rose up and demanded democracy.
Accessible for all
Excellent audio guides are available in many languages, as well as audio description for the visually impaired and sign language and loops for the hearing impaired. The exhibition forms a small part of the European Solidarity Centre's function. It also features a library, reading rooms, and archives which are completely accessible to researchers and interested readers alike. This eye-opening exhibition is a must-see for visitors to the Gdansk area.