Bronislaw Komorowski with Lech Walesa (right) during August agreement celebrations in Warsaw: photo - PAP/Jacek Turczykl
“The August agreements were possible because the [communist] authorities felt the growing strength of resistance among the entire nation,” President Komorowski said during Friday's ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.
"Probably all of us have memories of that special time. We all feel that we participated in something absolutely extraordinary,” Komorowski, a former Solidarity activist himself, added.
In the morning, former Solidarity leader Wałęsa laid flowers at the Three Crosses Solidarity Monument outside the Gdansk shipyard, where strikes led to the social contract with the communist authorities on 31 August 1980.
Walesa then flew to Warsaw to attend a commemorative meeting hosted by President Komorowski.
The 69 year-old former president of Poland after the fall of communism told reporters in Gdansk that 31 August should be celebrated as a state holiday.
“It was a great victory”, he said.
Solidarity leaders placed flowers at the Three Crosses Monument later in the day and took part in the opening of an exhibition documenting the life and work of Anna Walentynowicz, one of the founders of Solidarity who was killed in the air crash of the presidential plane in Russia in 2010.
In August 1980, Walentynowicz was a crane driver in the shipyard. She was sacked for her militant opposition to the management and it was with the demand for her reinstatement that the historic strike 32 years ago began.
The Gdansk Agreement crucially won the right to strike for workers.
The communists pledged to restrict censorship to protecting state and economic secrets and to broadcast Sunday Mass on state radio.
The 23 postulates of the Gdańsk shipyard workers are included in the UNESCO Memory of the World register of mankind’s most important documentary heritage.
Soon after 31 of August 1980, it became clear that the Gdansk agreement was only the beginning.
The statutes of the Solidarity Union were registered in November 1980 and within months the union grew into a social movement encompassing close on 10 million people.
Sixty three per cent of Poles who are fifty plus today were staunch supporters of Solidarity in the 1980s.
According to a survey by the CBOS Institute, 52 per cent of them do not identify themselves with the Soidarity tradition.
Asked what made them join the Solidarity union three decades ago, 56 per cent of the respondents mention prospects for better pay and working conditions, 40 per cent - the regaining of independence and an end to Soviet domination. (pg/mk)