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Poles mark 25th anniversary of Solidarity movement crackdown

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A quick check of the history books reminds us that Dec. 13 is the 25th anniversary of the then-Communist government of Poland’s crackdown on the Solidarity movement.

On Jan. 13, 1981, General Wokciech Jaruzelski (1923-), Poland’s Communist party leader, sought a compromise with the trade union Solidarity, founded in the Lenin shipyards in Gdansk, and led by Lech Walesa (1943-). The compromise failed, and Jaruzelski ordered martial law and a military crackdown. On Dec. 16, nine coal miners were killed in the Kopalnia Wujek coal yard.

Walesa was arrested and detained for 11 months and Solidarity was outlawed, prompting huge labor strikes nationwide.

In 1983, Walesa was given the Nobel Peace Prize.

Five years later, Jaruzelski, prompted by economic failure, began negotiating with Walesa. Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church strongly supported the Solidarity movement. In 1989, an agreement was reached, and Solidarity was made legal.

Pope John Paul II’s support and the success of Solidarity are widely credited for the beginning of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the rise of freedom in Poland and other countries.

Jaruzelski resigned as president of Poland in 1989, and Walesa was elected in 1990. He led until he was defeated in 1995.

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