Speech by Prof. Dr h.c. Irena Lipowicz in Westerplatte
Translated from the original Polish
1. Brave and solitary Westerplatte soldiers fought here against overwhelming enemy forces - totalitarian outposts, which were commencing the World War II - horrible not only to the European nations. Heroic fight for freedom of those who took part in this battle arise admiration even today. What was so special in these people who fought over here, that they inspired John Paul II to utter a sentence: "each one has its own Westerplatte"?
They were courageous, faithful, ready to make sacrifice; able to think and decide independently and to make it to the end. What did they not have? They had no desperate inclinations, no suicidal fantasies - they were taken as prisoners and were held in captivity only after they have done everything possible in these circumstances (and even more). There was no hatred, as after many years, those who survived were able to reconcile with former Wehrmacht soldiers, who used to shoot at them. There was no despair - against all facts there was hope, when "contra spem spero".[i] They wanted to survive only 7 days, hoping for prompt help of the Allied Forces, which from this point of view sounded pretty much realistic.
2. What does then today the words "each one has its own Westerplatte" mean? Maybe that every person in his life has a moment of ultimate and fiery test of courage, self-control and ability to make sacrifice: no matter how different the circumstances of such test might be. Sometimes there is nothing to be done, as the Westerplatte people say. But you can always set examples.
3. Years have passed - almost in the same place in Gdańsk stood the others - workmen and their advisors form the democratic opposition - to their test, to their "Westerplatte". They came with prayer and confession to the surprise of whole Europe, as their strike was a voluntary sacrifice, deprived of any violence, which in 1980 might have lead to death, just as it was in the case of similar occurrences in 1953 in Berlin, in 1956 in Budapest and in Poznań, in 1968 in Prague and in 1970 in Gdańsk. This death required proper attitude and preparations; they already knew, that no one in liberated, peaceful Western Europe of the 80's will be willing to "die for Gdańsk" one more time. They wanted not only freedom, but also something new, something more - they wanted "Solidarity". The slogan of that times was: "No freedom without Solidarity".
But how do we understand solidarity? It is a summon to "Bear ye one another's burdens". Bearing "someone else's burdens" is an independent choice, a moral decision, and not a national order or new tax introduced in the name of coherent development.
4. This idea faced a great challenge during the martial law, when Solidarity was violently attacked. We all know that the courageous outburst of millions of people is, and must be frail - it is normal. They couldn't have all devoted themselves to the underground work. The Solidarity ethics accepted it - communism was in possession of a very forceful violence apparatus, counted on fear and solitude of the opposition.
This acceptance of the enemy's supremacy, commitment to ideals and awareness of the fact that the victory may not come to this generation, manifested itself in the slogan "do our best". Encouragement and invitation to abandon totalitarian system and to choose democracy, as well as to join the Round Table, expressed itself in a slogan "come with us". Renouncement of violence by the Solidarity, selection of the civil way and "soft power" grew out of Christian values, out of the common slogan "overcome evil with good". Did they try to renounce hatred? The best evidence is a song[ii] from the times of martial law and underground Solidarity, which praised God and the strength he gave to overcome evil, contempt and hatred. That was a real hit of those days, sang by people sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment for printing leaflets. Nowadays, when I ask my friends - Solidarity activists, about these words after 30 years, they still know them by heart. That was the power of this peculiar Trade Union - to join, not to leave, to show generosity, not condemnation. The power of forgiveness got even those weakest out of solitude and fear - the fundaments of totalitarianism, and opened doors to velvet revolutions in other countries.
In difficult times of moral dilemmas of the democratic opposition and transformation, the Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Orthodox found support and moral guidelines in their communities - it was all about unity in diversity, which we now find in the European Union. The spirit of solidarity made us turn with a letter to captivated nations of Middle and Eastern Europe, though many thought we are moving to far.
When I asked the great people of "Solidarity", which message would be most important, they answered with the words of Zbigniew Herbert, common both to Wsterplatte soldiers and "Solidarity": "Be brave, in the end this is all that counts."
Nowadays the European Union needs such bravery and plan for the future.
Do we, gathered here in Gdańsk, obliged by the memory of those who had the courage and wisdom, who showed the World, that totalitarian empire is only a sandcastle, have such a vision of our Community?
Communities and countries are strong when they introduce new ideas, institutions and products. "Made in Europe" products are still excellent, our institutions - like the EU are developing. But what about ideas? Do we produce new ideas? Europe has done so through ages. These were: human rights form France, country of laws and social market economy from the reborn Germany, Spanish regionalism or Scandinavian right to information. The idea of last 30 years has been the "Solidarity", which should now be one of the basic - especially in the times of crisis - ideas of the European Union. Our Union.
[i] Contra spem spero [lat. hope against hope]
[ii] „Modlitwa o wchodzie słońca" by Jacek Karczmarski - Sunrise Prayer
„ Każdy Twój wyrok przyjmę twardy, przed mocą Twoją się ukorzę, ale zbaw mnie Panie od pogardy, od nienawiści obroń mnie Boże. O Tyś jest nieskończone dobro, którego nie wyrażą słowa, więc mnie od nienawiści obroń i od pogardy mnie zachowaj."