DETROIT– Lech Walesa, former President of Poland appeared at the opening of the new "Solidarnosc: Poland’s Struggle for Freedom" exhibit at the Walter P. Reuther Labor Library at Wayne State University. It is the thirty year anniversary of Solidarity and Wayne State will run the exhibit until July 1, 2011.
He had a strong labor message of unity at a private luncheon at the WSU McGregor Memorial Conference Center. The former Polish President and Senator Carl Levin of Michigan (D) got a chance to share ideas.
During a preview of the exhibit he spoke about the Solidarity movement in Poland. He said, "We didn’t have guns or missiles, but we had spirit and faith – and union workers need to act as one when facing foes that want to drive them apart. The spirit is stronger than missiles, tanks and nuclear power."
The Reuther Labor Library Director, Michael Smith, did the history proud, especially with the posters. Poster art is a big genre in Poland, and the exhibit is presented in both Polish and English. Archivists Dan Golodner, Elizabeth Clemens and librarian Kristen Chinery presented informative displays and compelling information. ‚We got great help from the Polish Mission in Orchard Lake, the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers and the U.A.W.," said Golodner. "They had great stuff from thirty years ago."
Smith who went to Poland last year to authenticate items and document first person accounts got great assistance from local historians also.
Walesa was very open and his words verified the help Solidarnosc got from former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. "When Pope John visited Poland it was more powerful than nuclear weapons and tanks," he said. "Pope John unified the factions, he brought us together. "We got financial help from the unions in America, we could not have succeeded without the overseas help," Walesa added.
"In the new era of globalization, there is opportunity for peace and prosperity, providing we have some essential reform," he added. He was folksy with humor and joked about Polish Democracy. "We have over a 100 political parties in Poland and there is a saying…..when two Poles talk politics they start another political party," he said smiling.
"We are equal under God. We are all essentially needed. We cannot have disproportions between countries or manufacturing plants will transfer from country to country," he said.
The labor leader was ably assisted by translator Magda Iwinska. He was in New York recently for an ironworkers rally in Times Square. He will next travel to Chicago for a political fundraiser.
Special visitors to the opening of the exhibit were Marcin Chumiecki of the ‚Polish Mission’, Piotr Cywinski of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Poland, Artur Patek of the University of Krakow-Jagiellonian University and Wanda Strozyk, President of Solidarnosc-Fiat.
Strozyk commented on current union situations in Detroit, "The teachers in Dearborn, Michigan (AFT) and the Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) at Delta Airlines, vote the union, it is a no brainer. With the union, labor can exercise their rights," she added.
"Solidarnosc: Poland’s Struggle for Freedom" opens today at the Walter P. Reuther Library on the Wayne State University campus. It will be at the library until July 1. Hours are 11 a.m. – 6:45 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 9a.m. – 4:45 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.
(Editors Note: Raymond Rolak is an aviation writer and attended Wayne State University)