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New on the Freedom Collection: Andrzej Gwiazda and Joanna Duda-Gwiazda

Article by Christopher Walsh July 15, 2013 //   3 minute read

With Andrzej Gwiazda and Joanna Duda-Gwiazda, the Freedom Collection welcomes its first dissident married couple.  Living in Soviet-dominated Poland, the Gwiazdas found love in a time where freedom was prohibited, and together fought for a future free of communist dictatorship.  Their zeal for the anticommunist movement landed both Andrzej and Joanna in the middle of the Lenin Shipyard strike, a workers’ rights demonstration that formed Solidarity, the first independent labor union in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe.  Their passion for the cause of a free Poland, however, was not without consequences as both husband and wife spent time as prisoners of conscience.

After marrying in 1961, Andrzej and Joanna became more active in opposition movements. Andrzej participated in the student protests against the Polish government in 1968; he also took part in the December 1970 demonstrations that were sparked by sudden increases in food prices. In 1976, the Gwiazdas grabbed the attention of the secret police after writing a letter to the Polish Parliament expressing their support for the Workers’ Defense Committee, an anticommunist underground civil society organization.  As a result, they were banned from leaving Poland and were placed under surveillance.

Andrzej was a member of the Presiding Committee of the Strike at Gdansk’s Lenin Shipyard in August 1980, a strike that attracted nationwide, popular support and forced the communists to the negotiating table.  Joanna also participated in the Lenin Shipyard strike and, along with her husband, co-authored the 21 Demands issued by the striking workers to the communist authorities advocating for the establishment of an independent trade union.  The government accepted these demands in what became known as the Gdansk Agreement.

In 1980, Andrzej became the Vice President of the Founding Committee of Solidarity and served as the Vice President of Solidarity.  Joanna was a member of the Regional Board of Solidarity in Gdansk until December 1981, when the Gwiazdas were imprisoned after the government declared martial law in an effort to crack down on political opposition.  Joanna was released in July 1982 and Andrzej was held in prison until May 1985, after which they continued their struggle against communism.

The Gwiazdas played prominent roles during a critical turning point for freedom in Central and Eastern Europe.  Learn more about their struggle to defeat communism on the Freedom Collection:

Christopher Walsh is Program Coordinator, Freedom Collection