The Pankow Peace Group

It was one thing to establish an independent peace group in Poland or Hungary during the last decade of the Communist era. Freedom and Peace challenged military service in Poland, where there was a long tradition of independent organizing. In Hungary, perhaps the most liberal country in the region outside of Yugoslavia, Dialogus opposed nuclear weapons on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Both...
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Working with the Marginalized

Until the 1970s, drug addicts didn’t exist in Poland – at least not officially. In those days, drugs were expensive and the supply was limited, so the Polish state could hide the problem by giving a different label to the small number of addicts. But then heroin became more readily available, in part as a byproduct of domestic poppy farming (poppy seeds are a key ingredient in the Polish...
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Human Rights in Poland

It can be a nightmare to become entangled in the Polish legal system. You could be charged with a crime, for instance, and thrown into pre-trial detention. This detention could even last two or three years. One person was even held for nearly eight years. Abuses in the court system, lawyer Adam Bodnar with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights told me, constitute the most important human...
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The Risks of Doing Business in Poland

Doing business entails certain risks. You make a big investment of money and time, and you hope that your gamble pays off. Maybe people will come to your restaurant. Maybe they will buy your product. Maybe they will contract for your services. But you can’t be sure. You’ve taken out loans on the expectation that if you build it, they will come. Polish businessman Lech Jeziorny was willing to...
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Building the Women’s Movement

In retrospect, it seems obvious: Polish women didn’t really have a seat at the table during the transformation 25 years ago. The Solidarity trade union movement was dominated by men. During the Martial Law period, women stepped into critical positions when the government arrested the top (male) leaders, but their contributions were largely unrecognized. Only one female representative...
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Solidarity Underground

Before its triumph in 1989, the Solidarity trade union spent more of its existence in the shadows than as an official movement. It started in August 1980 in Gdansk and remained legal until December 1981 when the Polish government declared Martial Law. For the next seven years, Solidarity went underground. Ewa Kulik was one of the key Solidarity leaders who kept the organization functioning...
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