By European Solidarity Centre
Europejskie Centrum Solidarności | European Solidarity Centre
In the Sejm and Senate polls of 4 June 1989, 261 candidates ran under the banner of Solidarity. But how does one overthrow a system without the Internet, with the media still in the hands of the regime?
Will we win?
Oppositionists and the people who wanted change in Poland came together in Citizens’ Committees endorsed by Lech Wałęsa. They did not have their own, legal and widely distributed newspapers, while their access to public media was very limited. Solidarity knew that it had to run a campaign that would be effective, going beyond the media, monopolised by the communist authorities. To this end—next to campaign trail, TV and radio shows, and the press—the Citizens’ Committee focused on posters and flyers, pasted and distributed in cities, towns and workplaces.
Photo with a poster (June 1989) by Janusz Bałanda RydzewskiEuropean Solidarity Centre
The father and his son, during an election rally. The kid is Jakub Knera, then 3, grown up to be musical journalist and Gdańsk culture animator / 3 June 1989.
The distribution of electoral materials from hand to hand gave an opportunity for personal meetings to people who supported Solidarity - recently closely controlled by the communist authorities.
The Marshal Steps In
Out of the posters and graphic art dedicated to the June 1989 elections, the most identifiable one today is the poster by Tomasz Sarnecki: 'High Noon. 4 June 1989'. It presents the Marshal from the Western 'High Noon', with the movie star Gary Cooper in his most famous role. Instead of a Colt, the Marshal in the poster carries a ballot paper in his hand, with the Solidarity logo pinned at his heart.
New pictures from 1989 Cannes Film Festival created a buzz around the world. The faces of the Stars Vote Solidarity campaign included Nastassja Kinski, Grace Jones and Bond Girl Carole Bouquet with the Solidarity pin and two fingers raised in a gesture of victory. The campaign was an idea of Jerzy Kośnik, photography correspondent to Cannes. During their visits to Poland in May 1989, the Solidarity movement was supported by the stage stars Stevie Wonder and Yves Montand.
Don't sleep! Otherwise they will vote you down, says the slogan.
A clever reference to communist propaganda: "PZPR", abbreviation of the Polish communist party, is left by the letter "R", which means "robotnicy" (Polish: workers). This meant that workers, the alleged base of communists, want to get rid of the regime.
‘A Photo with Wałęsa’ became one of the icons of the June 1989 election. It was Andrzej Wajda and Bronisław Geremek who came up with the idea to produce a series of election posters in which Solidarity’s candidates to the Polish Parliament would be supported by Lech Wałęsa himself, well-respected as the legendary leader of the democratic opposition.A total of 238 photographs of Citizens’ Committee candidates were taken with Lech Wałęsa, although—as has been determined through research—in several cases, names or pictures happened to be mixed up before printing.
Here, Karol Modzelewski (1937–2019) is portrayed with Lech Wałęsa. Modzelewski, for example, brought up the name Solidarność (Polish: solidarity) for the movement started by the 1980 strike in the Gdańsk Lenin Shipyard.
Another example of Lech Wałęsa's authority as well as effigy.
No Freedom Without Solidarity
The June 1989 elections brought about a decisive victory to the Solidarity opposition centred around the Citizens’ Committee endorsed by Lech Wałęsa. The candidates supported by the Committee won all the seats allocated to contenders not affiliated with the communist party: 35% (161 seats) in the Sejm (lower house of Parliament), as well as 99% of all the seats in the Senate.
Lech Walesa votes on 4 June. The Solidarity leader was afraid of the complicated voting system, which was also an attempt by the communist authorities to make it difficult to support democratic forces.
Mathematicaly absurd, but spot-on portrayal of the feelings after the election. Although the minority, Solidarity supporters as well as representatives felt like they outnumbered communists.
Solidarity is back! - a joyful board on one of Gdynia's streets.
curators: Arkadiusz Bilecki, Jakub Jagodziński
text: Katarzyna Żelazek
translation: Dorota Górak-Łuba
cooperation: Monika Krzencessa-Ropiak, Jerzy Klimczak, Ewa Konkel, Iwona Kwiatkowska