The Coastal Free Trade Unions: The collection of photographs taken by Stanisław Składanowski during the strike in August 1980 in the Gdańsk Shipyard

Stanisław Składanowski participated in the strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard and in the protests in August 1980 in the Coast, which he documented in photographs.

Stanisław Składanowski, born in 1950, belongs to the Polish Association of Art Photographers and heads the Gdańsk Unit of the Association. In the years 1968-1984, he worked in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. He was actively involved in the 15-day strike in the factory. He documented the life in the Shipyard day after day. He participated in the First Convention of the Solidarity Movement in the Olivia Hall. Following the introduction of martial law, Składanowski used to photograph protests and incidents on the streets of Gdańsk. In May 1982, he was interned in a closed detention centre in Strzebielinek. He spent nearly three months in custody. Once released, he did not give up his reporting activity. He used to photograph Pope John Paul II's pilgrimages Poland, demonstrations and social protests, conventions and meetings of members of the Solidarity Movement, or the funeral of activist Lech Bądkowski. Since 1989, he has run his own printing and photographic studio. He is an author of multiple exhibitions and albums.

The collection by Stanisław Składanowski comprises some of the most important photographs which document the events in the Coast in August 1980. The photographs Składanowski took in the premises of the Shipyard express the enthusiasm of the first days on strike, the creation of the Solidarity Movement, the formulation of its demands and the waiting for the authorities to react. Some of his photographs have become a sort of the icon of the Solidarity Movement. Składanowski used to photograph shipyard workers while being focused, listening speeches, waiting and having a rest, as well as their families and residents waiting in front of the gateway to the Shipyard. His photographs show members of the Free Trade Unions of the Coast and of the Inter-Factory Strike Committee. The photographer documented pastoral visits by Priest Henryk Jankowski and shipyard workers saying their prayers. The collection is supplemented by photographs of the slogans and inscriptions made by protesters on banners, walls and pavements. Składanowski stayed in the premises of the Shipyard until the strike had finished and the agreement had been signed with the Government.

The photographs we present are symbolic, as they have become a unique testimony of our history. The works by Składanowski exceed beyond the formula of an ordinary reportage documenting the reality. Not only did they describe, but they created somehow the whole image of the events of that period. The course of the events cannot be depicted only by leaflets, posters, brochures or even the most extensive accounts of their participants as well as by the iconographic message. 

The photographs are part of the collection received by the Archives of the Institute of National Remembrance. The collection was archived under reference IPN BU 3493.

Prepared by Katarzyna Adamów

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