One week ago I was in despair because it looked like every archive I contacted about doing research was closed, either for vacation or remodeling. But my mom contacted a wonderfully helpful archive in Gdansk that is open, and the director put me in touch with none other than Pani Anna Walentynowicz. Pani Ania was critical to the 1980 shipyard strikes in Gdansk-it was, in fact, her firing just months before scheduled retirement that sparked the strikes, and she and Pani Ania Pienkowska motivated the shipyard workers to strike for Solidarity. She's a hugely tough lady, and on Wednesday, I got to meet her. We talked for about 3 hours (and by talked, I mean she shared amazing stories about Solidarity and I tried to inarticulately communicate understanding, empathy, and questions in my unfortunately poor Polish). Sadly, I didn't get any pictures with her because of camera battery issues, but I sat at this same table with her! (photos are courtesy of anna walentynowicz.com). I'm returning to Gdansk over the weekend and have an invitation to come for a photo op if she's still in town.
And here's a photo of Anna Walentynowicz from back in the day-during the August 1980 strikes. I think ti's fair to make some comparisons between her and Rosa Parks-they were both iconic, strong, intelligent women who worked hard for civil rights and freedom. They're usually both remembered for simple acts of resistance but were true fighters. I'm still in disbelief that I got to meet her.