The Disappointment of Fulfilled Dreams

“May your dreams come true” is purportedly an ancient Chinese curse. Although it is probably apocryphal – just as the Chinese never say “may you live in interesting times” — the phrase does contain an element of truth. It is often the longing and anticipation that we crave, not the realization of our hopes. Nothing can possibly compare to the fulfillment we imagine. Many Poles...
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Negotiating the Transition in Poland

The great transformations of 1989 began with the announcement early in the year that the Polish government would begin Round Table negotiations with the Solidarity trade union movement. It was an unprecedented move. There had been uprisings from below and crackdowns from above. There had been revolutions from within and interventions from outside. But for the first time in the Soviet bloc, a...
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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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The Politics of Youth

A generational shift is slowly taking place in the politics of East-Central Europe as the figures responsible for the changes in 1989 are giving way to a younger group of politicians who were not old enough to be politically active at that time. This younger generation of politicians takes membership in the European Union for granted. They have very little invested in the original disagreements...
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