The Baltic Way - Poland

The text below is a letter from Lech Walesa, iconic former leader of the Solidarity trade union that played a key role in the dismantling of the Soviet Bloc and a former President of Poland.

‘The Baltic Way’ symbolizes the chain of freedom, as we were gradually winning our European freedom of the peoples oppressed by Communism step by step, subsequent crucial links joining one after another. The ‘Way’ also serves as a visible sign of solidarity beyond borders. 

The idea of Solidarity born in Gdansk in 1980 expresses a very simple concept: if you are not strong enough to lift a burden, ask others to help you. When we first opposed the Communist regime in a small group back in the 1970s, we never expected that the Solidarity banner would bring together not only workers, but also intellectuals, believers and non-believers, the young and the old, and the whole masses of Polish society.

We began with simple every-day life and workers’ claims which turned into a struggle to change the realities, a struggle for freedom, dignity, for democracy. Soon Solidarity grouped as many as 10 million individuals in Poland. Our claims and the non-violent way became a universal call to rid of the chains, undertaken by subsequent social groups and nations. The message of Solidarity, so meaningfully expressed in the ‘Baltic Way’, launched the transformation domino in the countries separated from freedom by the Iron Curtain.

Today, Europe and the free democratic world should follow in the footsteps of the great Solidarity from 25 years ago and seek the shared answers to the greatest challenges and most urgent problems. Following a thorough political and civilizational transformation at the turn of the 20th and 21st century, not only have we failed to answer the most urgent questions, but we also prove helpless in the face of the current basic problems.

We do consider peace and freedom as our top shared values, yet we are not efficient enough reacting to their obvious violation, this due to our particularistic interests. The free world must not approve of such acts. What we need is more dialoguing, more solidarity, and more determination to keep and promote the civilization of peace. Since peace and freedom continue to be a task of every individual, every nation, and the global world.

Twenty-five years after the unique non-violent manifestation of freedom and solidarity, I would like to encourage all the Conference Participants to join in an open debate and face the challenge of formulating the strategy for the next years, so that we could look at today and tomorrow with hope, so that the hope, the freedom won, and the longed for peace should never be jeopardized by such destructive acts against the world and nations as the one from 75 years ago...Never more! 

Lech Walesa
Gdańsk, August 21, 2014

(Reproduced here with kind permission of the organizers of the Baltic Way conference held in Riga August 21-22, 2014) 

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