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Gdansk is deeply entrenched in the history of Europe. This is where the first shots of World War II were fired and where, in 1980, trade union leader Lech Walesa led a major dock strike to advocate for more respect for human rights in communist Poland. This first massive social uprising in a country behind the Iron Curtain was later seen as the beginning of the fall of the Soviet Union.
An earlier strike at the Gdansk shipyards in 1970 was brutally oppressed by the Polish government. But in 1980, Solidarność, Walesa’s illegal trade union, managed to rally 17,000 workers. This brave fight for freedom is remembered by Gdansk in the European Solidarity Center (ESC). Founded in 2014, the Center houses the Solidarity Museum, a modern award-winning institution with a uniquely visual collection. The building’s architecture is also striking: giant rusted plates of steel are a reference to the shipyards.