Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Week 2 in the Archives

My time in Gdansk, and Poland for that matter, is drawing to a close. I've spent the majority of this week back at the archive, continuing to search the Bibula (underground newspapers) for any references to women. Unfortunately,y my ability to search for gendered language is severely hampered by my lack of fluency in this language...that would certainly be exciting! But I've got a whole stack of articles that I will probably spent the next year translating. I will resist the huge urge that I have to hand it over to my mom to sift through, because this work will be good for me.

I just need to take a nerdy moment out to talk about HOW MUCH I like working in the archive. The staff here is super and encouraging and that helps a lot. But really, everyday I get to hold, in my own hands, CLANDESTINE DOCUMENTS. People literally risked their lives to conduct interviews, write articles, print copies in their homes/rented rooms etc, and distribute these papers. During Martial Law, when the leaders of Solidarity where imprisoned, papers like Tygodnik Mazowsze were the voice and image of Soldiarity and gave people hope. And I've (tried) to read the original articles!

Besides meeting Pani Walentynowicz I've also met Alina Pienkowska's best friend. Alina Pienkowska was a young nurse who worked in the shipyards and was hugely important for the 1980 strikes. She telephoned the international press with news of the August strikes-the telephone lines in her office were the only ones who were not cut. On the 3rd day of the strikes, the strike committee agreed to a 1500 zloty pay raise and the reemployment of Walentynowicz and Walesa-which is 500 zloty more than the intial strike demands. But Pienkowska, Walentynowicz, and a few other women realized that there were other smaller factories striking across Gdansk and the country who were counting on a big victory in the shipyards to help them get their own issues accross. And they decided to continue the strike for Solidarity-closing the gates and telling the departing workers to come back and strike for Solidarity. She wrote the 17th of the 21 Demands and was a Senator before she died in 2002. Her friend was awesome, awesome, awesome-was already thinking of Pienkowska's role in terms of gender, had a great apartment and cool jewelry.

And tomorrow I have an interview with Pani Henryka Krzywanos, a tram driver in Gdansk who led the transportation strikes in August of 1980. Basically, thanks to the amazingly kind director at the Solidarity archive, I've been put in contact with 3 of the most important women in Solidarity. Whether or not I use this material for my Thesis, it's incredibly exciting to meet such legendary, strong women.

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