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90th Anniversary of the Birth of Anna Walentynowicz

Anna Walentynowicz (1929−2010) is one of the most important figures in Poland’s pursuit of independence of the 1980s. She hailed from the former Polish Eastern Borderlands and was born in Równe in Volhynia (now Ukraine) as Anna Lubczyk. Without her family nearby, she worked as a maid for a family of wealthy landowners, then ended up in the vicinity of Warsaw, and from there she went to Gdańsk. In Gdańsk, she found employment in the ”Amada” margarine factory and later worked in the Gdańsk Shipyard. She participated in the December 1970 strike and demonstrations. After they were put down, she found herself in the crosshairs of the Security Service.

In 1978, Walentynowicz joined the Free Trade Unions of the Coast. She distributed an underground news-sheet and contributed to the samizdat Robotnik Wybrzeża (The Coastal Worker). She also participated in meetings and her flat was used for anti-Communist activities.

As part of the repression, she was fired by the shipyard on 7 August 1980 and a week later a strike was held in her defence. She was one of the women credited with transforming the protest into a solidarity strike. Walentynowicz became the symbol of the burgeoning Solidarity movement.

Despite her great merits and respect shown by everyone, at the turn of 1980 and 1981 attempts were made to marginalize Walentynowicz’s role in the Solidarity trade union. In 1981, an “operational combination” plan was developed by the Security Service, which was designed to poison her and make her unable to carry out her activity. After the declaration of martial law on 13 December 1981, she was detained and interned in a women’s camp in Gołdap. Walentynowicz was released in July 1982 but was arrested again a month later. She was freed in March 1983 but arrested for a third time in December 1983. She left jail in April 1984. Afterwards, Walentynowicz toured Poland and took part in numerous ceremonies, demonstrations and protests. She befriended Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, whose martyr’s death truly shocked her.

She opposed the Round Table talks of 1989. In 2006, Polish President Lech Kaczyński decorated Anna Walentynowicz with the Order of the White Eagle.

Walentynowicz was killed in the Smolensk air disaster on 10 April 2010.

The obverse of the coin features a fragment of the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970 in Gdańsk. Walentynowicz was involved in the construction of the monument. The inscription ”Anna Solidarność” (Anna of Solidarity), placed below the fragment of the monument, is the heroine’s most popular nickname, which highlights her contribution to the rise of the Solidarity movement. The reverse of the coin features the image of Walentynowicz, and three slogans – Courage, Modesty, Perseverance – which emphasize the principles she was guided by in her life and activity.

Sławomir Cenckiewicz