• On May 30th, 2024 (Corpus Christi) all branches of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk will be closed to visitors
• The Arsenal of the Granaries on Ołowianka Island is closed until June 14, 2024, due to preparations for the new temporary exhibition
• The "Motława" ferry does not operate due to the river embankment renovation until further notice

Extraordinary History of Solidarity Postulates

The shipyard strikes of 1980 started changes which have changed the face of the whole Europe. The Boards with 21 Postulates are one of the most significant elements of the events called the Solidarity Festival and an undeniable symbol of the strikes. If it were not for the prudence and courage of the Polish Maritime Museum in Gdańsk staff, this priceless historical reminder might not have survived the dark night of martial law.

On August 17th, 1980 Andrzej and Joanna Gwiazda and Bogdan Lis formulated the postulates of the Inter-Factory Strike Committee (their final version was edited by Bogdan Borusewicz). On August 18th the Inter-Factory Strike Committee leaders decided to publish the postulates. As it was impossible to accomplish it via mass media, it was decided to write them down on plywood used by shipyard loftsmen and to place them beyond the main gate of the Gdańsk Shipyard. The first board was written on by Arkadiusz Rybicki, the second one – by Maciej Grzywaczewski.

After the strike was over the Boards were moved to the Solidarity seat in Gdańsk and in 1981 the Solidarity Board passed them to the Polish Maritime Museum which was organizing an exhibition devoted to the August of 1980. At that time the Boards were frequently borrowed, therefore, in order to replace them at the exhibition for the time they were missing Solidarity consented to making their copies. It passed the same boards as the ones Grzywaczewski and Rybicki wrote down the Solidarity demands on to the Museum.

Mirosław Brucki, the CMM conservator, agreed to make the copies – it took him less than two days (he worked in one of the CMM storehouses; his colleagues knew nothing about it). “Today it is almost impossible to express the spirit of those days. It was a combination of great euphoria and anxiety,” says Brucki, the CMM conservator. After a few test strokes, he started making a handwritten copy of the boards, copying the authors’ handwriting. “The originals were returned to the Museum in bad condition. Mostly because the text was written down on regular plywood with charcoal. On the other hand, titles and postulate numbers were written with red oil paint. After all, before the Boards were passed to us they had been placed on the Shipyard gate – the sun, wind and rain had damaged them,” recollects Brucki, who worked on the initial preservation of the Boards with fixative, an agent protecting from light and internal damage.

Wiesław Urbański, the CMM conservator and the Solidarity Chairman in CMM, agreed to carry out preservation of the boards. He played the most important role in the history of the Boards and took great risk for them. Before the introduction of martial law Przemysław Smolarek, the CMM Director, decided to hang the copies of the Boards at the exhibition and to hide the originals in the museum storehouses. It turned out to be a very good decision as in the first days of martial law the Security Service (SB) took away the most important exhibits related to the August of 1980 exhibition including the Boards with 21 Postulates, which in fact were their copies.

When the SB officers came to the Granaries in Ołowianka the original Boards were no longer there. Right after the introduction of martial law Wiesław Urbański took them from the Museum and hid them in the attic of his house. He told no one about it – following the most important conspiracy principle – the fewer people know, the better. Only Dariusz Chełkowski, the museum driver knew about the situation. Urbański just told the CMM Director that the boards had been evacuated. “I knew that the Boards had to be saved – I felt that after some time they will acquire symbolic and historical value. Besides, they were already of great importance to us,” says Urbański.

Copies of the Boards taken by SB have disappeared and till the present day no one knows what has happened to them. The original Boards are different from the copies (fortunately, the SB officers were not aware of this fact) – the original ones have a fragment of the eighth postulate written on the back by mistake (both the number and the text were written in red paint). The copy taken by SB did not have this flaw.

Hidden by Urbański, the Boards have safely survived through the period of martial law and structural changes and have returned to the Museum in already free Poland. “Today the Boards can be seen at the exhibition in the Granaries in Ołowianka. At the end of next week we would like to organize a temporary exhibition in the Maritime Culture Centre where we would be happy to present the Boards and also tell the story of several people important to the history of the Boards,” says Jerzy Litwin, the CMM Director. The Museum is currently raising funds for the organization of such exhibition.

During its meeting in Gdańsk held on August 28-30, 2003 the International Advisory Committee of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme has recognized the boards as one of the most important documents of the 20th century, a testimony of events of ground-breaking influence on political, structural and economic changes in the countries of the socialist bloc, which started in the Gdańsk Shipyard. Based on this recognition, the boards and the Solidarity archival collection stored in the Karta Center in Warsaw were added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register of Cultural Heritage by the decision of the UNESCO Director-General of October 16th, 2003.