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Monday, 29 August 2005

Speech of the President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, given at the conference “From...

In today’s world there may not be a more important word than solidarity. The one who is in solidarity with others is not alone. The one who is in solidarity with others does not feel helpless. The one who is in solidarity with others, can change the world!
25 years ago people in the Gdańsk Shipyard were in solidarity. Out of their courage a ten million movement was born which changed the course of history. 
Today I want to thank all those brave people. I believe that all Poles owe you their gratitude. Also those who were not in „Solidarność” then. Who did not understand that you were right. Who did not want or could not support your cause. And even those who fought with you then. Since we all, I stress, all, are living in a free Poland. And the free Poland would not have been possible without you, Mr. President and without you and without many of you present here!
As the President of the Republic of Poland I wish to dedicate the words of admiration and respect to the great leader of Polish August, Mr. Lech Wałęsa. 25 years ago I was not standing with you on one side, however today I have no doubts that your vision of Poland was leading us in a good direction. And thanks to your courage, today we can build together wellbeing of our Homeland.
Today’s anniversary is a good opportunity to mention other legendary personages of Polish  „Solidarność”. People such as: Bogdan Borusewicz, Zbigniew Bujak, Andrzej Celiński, Władysław Frasyniuk, Andrzej Gwiazda, Marian Jurczyk, Bogdan Lis, Anna Walentynowicz. Advisors who had significant influence on the shape of August postulates and the course of the freedom rising: Bohdan Cywiński, Bronisław Geremek, Jacek Kuroń, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Adam Michnik, Karol Modzelewski, Jan Olszewski, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Władysław Siła-Nowicki, Andrzej Wielowieyski. Forgive me that I will not list everyone. It would be very difficult. But with great respect we shall treat every effort, every wish for good which contributed to the great work of NSZZ „Solidarność”. Let us thank them all!
It was not an accident that this great cry for freedom had been heard in Poland. With great respect we think about pre-August people and organizations, which even before had the courage to demand human dignity and civic rights.
Let us remind ourselves of the social upheavals of 1956, 1968, 1970 and 1976. Let us recall steadfast efforts of The Committee of Laborers’ Defense, The Movement of Human and Civic Rights Defense, The Confederation of Independent Poland, The Movement of Young Poland, Free Trade Unions. The signs of intellectual independence, „flying universities”, publications of an unofficial circulation. We must especially appreciate a role of the Catholic church in Poland which created oasis of independence, and first of all, as was mentioned earlier, we must bear in mind an influence of a great historic personage – our countryman, Karol Wojtyła, the Pope John Paul II. The sources of „Solidarność” movement date back to year 1979 when during the Pope’s first pilgrimage to His Homeland, Poles „counted themselves” and witnessed a memorable appeal to renew the face of this land. The memory of Polish nation also preserved many hundred year old traditions of democracy, parliamentarism, freedom of speech and conscience, tolerance. It also included memories of many uprisings and struggles for independence. The phenomenon of Polish „Solidarność” was in this context something which at the same time was unexpected and extraordinary but also typical for the national spirit, inscribed in the lives of generations. Indeed Poland surprised the world – but those who really knew Poles were not surprised.                              
The 20th century brought a lot of suffering to the world. Wars, totalitarian systems, ideologies of destruction. Many started to doubt that ordinary people could change something, that their actions made sense. And by the end of the century Solidarność brought people back their confidence. Confidence that joint hands are stronger than walls. Than frontier wire entanglements and police cordons. That is why Solidarność was one of the most important, most creative experiences of the past century. It woke up nations, transformed political systems because it changed people. It inspired them with new energy.
The experience of „Solidarność” is a great lesson. First of all it teaches us that there are not impossible things in history, there are not historical verdicts which would entrap a nation without any way out. Hope always – even if the way is long – leads to freedom.
This lesson also teaches us that concerted collective effort has a great power. The „Solidarność” movement showed how to conduct historical transformations without violence, but also, and this is something I particularly want to stress today, without dividing and excluding. No one was asked where they came from as long as they had good intentions. That is why „Solidarność” brought together people of different professions and biographies. All of those who wanted to change Poland for better. The heritage of „Solidarność” consists in this message that the energy of the whole society is necessary to build the prosperity of Poland. Common Homeland and common future – these are our most important tasks which should bind us beyond divisions.
Jacek Kuroń, deceased, was undoubtedly one of the symbols of this wise solidarity and willingness to build common and solidary Poland. The man who despite so much suffering never really stopped loving people, believing in them. When others tried to appropriate the idea of solidarity, fence it off against the external world, he simply tried to put it in practice. He wanted to attract to it as many people as possible, encourage and convince them. He knew that if we have a chance as a country, as a society, we can only make use of it acting together. Like a family or at home. Every mind and every pair of hands can contribute, can put a brick to this building where we live and will live together. The Pope John Paul II stressed this civic, patriotic – but above all human and at the same time spiritual dimension of solidarity in his famous homily at Zaspa in Gdańsk. In reference to Saint Paul’s words „bear the burdens of each other’s” he said: „Solidarity – means the one and the other, if a burden, then a burden born together, jointly. And so never: one against the other. Ones – against others (...) Fight cannot be stronger than solidarity” This was the Pope’s teaching. And these words were quoted in a film, which commemorated His Person on the day of mourning in the Polish Parliament. And these words sounded really strong, really convincing and really up-to-date. Not one against the other or ones against others. Fight cannot be stronger than solidarity.   
I think that today, at the time of hot political campaigns, which are after all natural for a democratic order, this appeal must be taken to heart once again. Let this lesson of the experience of the „Solidarność” movement and lesson of human solidarity be useful instructions for us today. Let us try – just like then – respond to great historic challenges in a positive way; not to attack, not to renew the old divisions, not to condemn and not to exclude. Of course democracy is an art of competition of different ideas. Of course democracy takes competition for granted – but we should not let the things that divide us exceed those which we, Poles, have in common.       
I am also convinced that „Solidarność” is a lesson of the unifying Europe. As long as the motor of integration was to build collectively – solidarity of richer countries with poorer ones just now coming into the community, the European project was a success. But when national egoism is heard, when local interests start to prevail – a crisis starts.
Europe must understand this lesson. Europe can and should face modern challenges in an effective way. Europe needs solidarity. This historical solidarity spelled in capital letters and this daily solidarity which builds good future of the continent and of the world.
The road that we followed during those sixteen months of „Solidarność”, through a dramatic experience of the martial law – which as I emphasized earlier, was evil – through such a valuable agreement of „the round table” till the recovery of freedom and triumph of democracy – is rightfully called “the longest Polish insurrection”. This is how a civic society was reborn. An impressively sensible and responsible society – courageous but at the same time understanding reality. Vigilant so as not to let radicalism of actions suppress new dreams. We created a revolution that restricted itself. A movement was born which destroyed an authoritarian system in an effective way but without resorting to violence. It was a new – and how fruitful – experience that departed from an ill fate of Polish history.
We got an extraordinary opportunity because during that period, especially during „Solidarność” of August 1980 a stereotype of Poland and Poles started to change. Every month and every year we proved that we deserve another evaluation. I believe that the presence of so many world’s distinguished personages here is also a confirmation of the fact that the image of Poland and Poles is changing. How precious are the words written a few days ago by Adam Michnik: „here Poland, usually perceived as a country of haughty cavalrymen attacking enemy’s tanks, and apart from this a country of drunkards and obscurants, anti-Semites and Philistines, became an important country watched closely and respected. Not only was our courage admired but also our caution. Not only patriotism and honor of Poles but also their sense of measure and realism”.
It is wonderful that we could not only change our image but also give grounds for this change. Social and patriotic solidarity was our weapon. Acting together was our weapon. Not allowing  separation, individual or private interests, fight of ones against the others. Acting and talking like a Pole to a Pole. This principle allowed us to follow the road of dialogue – and through agreements to create a chance for free elections, independence, system’s transformation, for all those events, all those successes, and I want to stress this word – successes – since we speak too little of them. Since we are somehow ashamed of this word. We are embarrassed that we have achieved so much. What was impossible, unthinkable and imaginary and what became a fact. August of 1980 is a patron of the successes. We are secure, we are in NATO, we are surrounded by our neighbors who are also members of this Alliance. For the first time in thousand years we are in the same political and military alliance with our great German neighbor. We received an amazing civilization chance in the form of our presence in the European Union. We are surrounded by neighbors, states and nations, which not without their own big sacrifice but also following the way of August 1980 and Solidarność, are walking towards democracy, respect for human rights – here I mean „the orange revolution” in Ukraine, great efforts of Ukraine, Baltic Countries, all those in the Central and Eastern Europe who are building this solidarity already in the 21 century. We are a democratic country, a market country, a country which creates great opportunities for young people out of whom more than 2 millions are university students, who start their studies at foreign universities and glorify Poland - they are excellent young people, excellent students!
Poland of the last 16 years despite all weaknesses, despite all difficulties, despite quarrels, despite many unfair evaluations is a country of success. A country which can boast itself of the success born in a difficult time of August 1980. Let us remember this. Today after 25 years. Let us remember that there is no freedom without solidarity. But let us remember that there is no solidarity without trust and mutual respect.
Ending my 10 year term as the President, if I could wish Poles something for the next years, it would be freedom and solidarity and much more mutual respect.
Warsaw, 29 August 2005
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