2019 | Documentary | German 55′ Solidarnosc: Der Mauerfall begann in Polen (2019) on IMDb

How Solidarity Changed Europe

In the summer of 1980, workers at Lenin shipyard in Gdansk called a strike against state oppression. The vehement workers’ movement, banned at the time, leads to Poland’s first independent trade union, Solidarność. It opposes the communist regime, right up until its representatives at the 1989 round table create a new Poland. Supporters of Solidarność and contemporary witnesses have their say.

The People’s Republic of Poland is one of the elite countries in the Soviet Union. When the Polish people increasingly deviate from communist policies and declare their dissatisfaction, a power struggle with the state begins. Encouraged by a visit from the first Polish pope, John Paul II, workers at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk break the law in the summer of 1980 and call a strike. This documentary looks at how the first independent trade union emerged from this banned workers’ movement and opposed the communist regime: Solidarność

Supported by the Catholic Church and opposition intellectuals, the movement is fighting for the rights of economically troubled workers. Fearing a loss of control, the Polish government has its citizens watched and filmed every step of the way. Solidarność, on the other hand, is seeking help from documentary filmmakers and international journalists. Ideologies collide as the images compete. But solidarity wins out – because the whole world is looking to Gdansk, the ruling party is forced for the first time to give in to workers’ demands. Even the proclamation of martial law can no longer stop change in Poland. Solidarność continues to work underground and returns to the political stage in 1989.

We hear from Solidarność supporters, cameramen and contemporary witnesses, as well as from famous Polish director Agnieszka Holland and a former party member. Basil Kerski, director of the European Solidarność Centre in Gdansk, recounts Polish history from today’s perspective, a history that would change Europe forever. Because what happened in the fall of 1989 in the GDR are just the brilliant finale of a grassroots revolution, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Bettina Offermann
Christine Baron

Executive Producer
Gunnar Dedio | LOOKSfilm

A co-production by
LOOKSfilm, NDR/Arte

Author & Director
Ania Szczepanska

Creative Producer
Christin Schutta

Photo © Michał Bukojemski