Wednesday, June 4, 2014

25 years ago...

25 years ago the first free election took place in Poland- a partially free election, hard-won after a turmoil of long negotiations, workers’ strikes, deaths, injuries, military action and repressive tactics by the government against the opposition.
Eventually the Communist government was forced to recognise Solidarity as a legitimate political movement instead of dismissing it as disorganised riots. During the famous Round Table negotiations came an agreement to a compromise- a partially free election in which 65% of the mandates in the Sejm (parliament) would be reserved for the ruling Communist coalition.
Only the remaining 35% was up for grabs by any party… and the opposition, Solidarity, took 160 out of 161 available seats. 
This overwhelming victory prompted changes in Poland which the government had simply not anticipated, and which the Polish people themselves had not quite believed would be possible. Suddenly communism was no longer a status quo with no end in sight, but a crumbling system that could be challenged. Suddenly, the opposition had power beyond rallies and strikes. People had voted, and their vote counted.
I remember going to the voting booth with my parents, and I remember going to rallies and fundraisers for weeks before then. I was very young but the urgency of this change was clear to me, and I will always remember the hopeful atmosphere of those days. 
Here is a drawing I did afterwards- my mother later showed it to Wałęsa who signed it for me. :) I was six years old.
The Solidarity logo- below a portait of Lech Wałęsa
(with his name in the wrong declension and a spelling error),
one of the slogans "No freedom without Solidarity",
my childish rendition of this poster,
and a drawing of people voting!

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