Anna Walentynowicz was a vocal activist for labor rights who became the catalyst for the Solidarity movement during the 1980’s in Poland. Recognized as a labor leader in the shipyards of Gdansk, Walentynowicz was fired from her job as a crane operator for anti-communist activity just a few short weeks before her scheduled retirement. The act in question was stealing old candle stubs from a graveyard to make new candles to honor the memory of fallen workers killed in a food-shortage protest a decade earlier. Anna’s firing resulted in a strike at the shipyard which spread throughout the nation becoming the largest labor strike in history. The strikes resulted the formation of the Solidarity trade union which would grow to over ten million members within two years and the larger movement would eventually topple communist rule in Poland in the late eighties. Walentynowicz has been called the “mother of independent Poland” and continued to her activism until she died in a plane crash along with the Polish president and many other officials in 2010.
Illustration by Connor Linde
This illustration of Anna Walentynowicz is based off of the traditional Polish art of Wycinanki. Each of the eight stems reaching out from her portrait gives bloom to a flower of freedom as their vines and leaves weave together as a sign of camaraderie. Known as the “mother of independent Poland,” her initial efforts in Polish Solidarity resulted in advances in workers rights and social change for over 10 million people.
312,679 km2 (69th)
Unitary parliamentary republic