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The fall of communism began in Poland!


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Introduction

Livingwithin the Communist Bloc was not the choice of the Poles. It meant: strikes, repression, arrests, ruined economy, the diffic

ulties and  risky struggle of the democratic opposition and its leader Lech Wałęsa. Can you imagine what communism can do to a country for nearly 50 years? Do you want to see how difficult it was to overcome and see how much has changed in Poland after the fall?


At the end of WWII, the victorious powers established their spheres of influence in Europe. As a result of strong pressure, Poland bacame the area of interest of the Soviet Russia. Communism prevailed in our country for a period of 50 years. Strong, centralised government helped to rebuild the country which had been devastated by war. However, all the democratic freedom was completely abolished.A strong resistance that had its roots in an independent nature of the Poles emerged in the 1960s and 1970s due to the activities of opposition groups and underground politicians. In December 1970, the first strikes took place in Gdańsk, and in September 1976, the Workers’ Defence Committee was created among the intellectuals. In August 1980, strikes spread throughout the country, and a worker from the Gdańsk Shipyard - Lech Wałęsa was the leader of the opposition. Representatives of the Communist government were forced to make concessions. Independent Solidarity trade union, with Lech Wałęsa, was established as the first in a Communist Bloc country. The conciliatory government did not last long. On 13 December 1981, martial law was declared in Poland, which eliminated previously won freedom and stopped opposition activists. Despite this repression, opposition activities intensified in the 1980s. In early 1989, the communist authorities recognised the need for change in the state. Round Table deliberations conducted from February to April and led to an agreement under which the first democratic parliamentary elections were held in June 1989. Thus, the communist system ceased to exist in Poland, providing the impetus for change across the whole Europe.

Day 1: Kraków – arrival

Arrival in Kraków.

Transfer to the hotel.

Meeting with a historian: an introduction to the history of Communism in Poland.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 2: Kraków and Nowa Huta

Morning tour of Nowa Huta, the ‘ideal city’, built in the 1940s next to the Vladimir Lenin metallurgical plant. It includes: the Main Kombinat Gate, from which the workers began their demonstrations during times of strikes. Central Square and the urban establishments of Nowa Huta. The exhibition contains documentation of its construction. Short break for a ‘regenerative meal’ in a former workers’ cafeteria, where groups of visitors can view a film about the building of Nowa Huta and Vladimir Lenin’s visit to Kraków.

 

A visit to the Ark church, the result of great effort of the inhabitants of Nowa Huta (in this area, which was supposed to be a model of communist ideals, a church has never been foreseen).

Return to the centre of Kraków.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 3: Kraków

Morning – tour of the historic city centre and the Market Square with St. Mary’s Church, Collegium Maius – a medieval university building, the Wawel Hill with the Royal Castle and Cathedral.

Afternoon – optional free time or a trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 4: Kraków – Warsaw (320 km)

Morning transfer to Warsaw (approx. 5h 30min)

An afternoon stroll through the Old Town of Warsaw, which was completely destroyed during the war and rebuilt from scratch in the post-war years: the Royal Castle, St. John’s Cathedral, Old Town Square. Ride on the first escalator in Poland, built in the 1950s by a group of Soviet technicians.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel

Day 5: Warsaw

Morning tour of Warsaw:  Palace of Culture and Science – built in the 1950s as a gift from Joseph Stalin to Warsaw. Defilad (Parade) Square, on which the May 1st parades were held. A visit to the Warsaw districts built in the 1950s in socialist realism style. Lunch at a milk bar.

Afternoon visit to the Temple of Divine Providence and the grave of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, who was abducted and murdered by militia officers during the period of martial law along with a small exhibition devoted to the role of the Polish Church in the struggle with communism.

Free time.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 6: Warsaw – Gdańsk (340 km)

Morning – transfer to Gdańsk (approx. 5h 30min)

Afternoon – tour of the Old Town of Gdańsk: Golden Gate and remains of fortifications, ul. Mariacka with St. Mary’s Basilica, Long Market, Arthur’s Court, Long Embankment and Gdańsk Crane.

Return to hotel.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 7: Gdańsk

In the morning: “Roads to Freedom” trail: Gdańsk Shipyard (from the outside)that was the location of strikes between 1970 and 1980 and the place of work of Lech Wałęsa,  the monument of shipyard workers killed in conflicts with militia in 1970. The “Roads to Freedom” exhibition, depicting everyday life in Poland during the time of martial law and the shipyard's negotiations with the authorities in the 1980s.

A visit to the Church of St. Bridget, which was led by the chaplain of ‘Solidarity’, Father Henryk Jankowski.

An afternoon drive to Sopot with a walk around this beautiful resort and along the 500 metre long pier – the longest in Europe!

Return to Gdańsk.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 8: Gdańsk – departure

Transfer to the airport.

Depart from Gdańsk.