How Polish Solidarity Is Helping In the Fight Against Vladimir Putin

Posted on Wednesday, March 23, 2022
by AMAC Newsline

AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis

With Russian bullets and missiles raining down on their cities and towns, millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homeland, taking with them only what they can carry on their backs or stuff in their cars. The vast majority of refugees – some 1.95 million – have fled into neighboring Poland, where they have been welcomed with open arms by a Polish population with a long history of generosity, kindness, and standing firm in the face of foreign oppression.

The Polish response to what is fast becoming a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine has been efficient, methodical, and customized. Incredibly, it has largely been private Polish citizens and organizations, not the Polish government, that has provided most of the aid.

In contrast to the classic bureaucratic model involving refugee camps and poorly organized supply lines, Poles have opened their homes to their Ukrainian neighbors, inviting them into their communities. Polish schools are expected to take in 700,000 Ukrainian students, and hundreds of thousands more Ukrainians wait in long queues for work permits. In total, Poland’s population has swelled by more than 4% in just a few weeks.

The train station in Przemysl is the first place where Ukrainians are finding medical aid and families or individuals that will host them until they become independent. At the station, volunteers serve 50,000 hot meals every day.

The Catholic Church in Poland has especially risen to the task of caring for the refugees, as everything from monasteries to pilgrim dormitories and parish hostels have been converted into makeshift homes.

For instance, refugees now sleep in the archbishop’s palaces in Krakow and Tarnow, while bishops sleep on bunk beds in a room next to the garage. The famous John Paul II apartments that served as a museum are now open for the refugees. The Wrocław archdiocese has opened an entire 4-star hotel, and the seminary in Koszalin is already full of refugees from the east.

Dominican Monks from Krakow have evacuated two orphanages and settled children in the sanctuary pilgrim centers, equipped with volunteer teachers, psychologists, doctors, room managers, cleaners, and kitchen employees.

In standing with the Ukrainian people, Poles no doubt remember a time not so long ago when the world stood with them in the face of oppression, as the evil Soviet regime tried to crush their spirit and their yearning for freedom.

It was in the midst of this struggle that the term solidarność, translating to “solidarity” in English, became a phrase repeated around the world. It referred to a movement inside Poland in the 1980’s to oppose the Soviet regime and use methods of civil resistance to bring about social change inside the Communist bloc.

Formally, Solidarity was the name of a trade union founded in August of 1980 at the Gdańsk shipyards. Just over a year later, the union’s membership had swelled to more than 10 million, representing one-third of all working people in Poland and becoming the first trade union behind the Iron Curtain to be recognized by the state.

Soon thereafter, the Moscow-controlled puppet regime instituted martial law in Poland to counteract the disruptive activities of Solidarity. But by then, the spirit of solidarity at the heart of the movement had taken on a life of its own and captured the attention of the West. The Solidarity trade union continued to operate underground with significant support from the Catholic Church and the United States, eventually playing a significant role in the downfall of Communism in Poland. Finally, in 1989, Poland held democratic elections for the first time since 1947, with Lech Wałęsa, a Solidarity leader, elected as president.

Poles understand the renewing, strengthening, and compassionate power of solidarity, and that it not only contributed to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but empowered neighboring Baltic states like Belorussia and Ukraine to break the shackles of Soviet slavery and rebuild – at least for a time.

Now, this spirit of solidarity can be seen clearly in Poland once again.

As Cardinal Krajewski once said, “to share our apartment, our table, our presence with someone in need is an incredible gesture, offering to the poor is indeed giving of ourselves that bears the cost.”

Poles would not have embarked on their original enterprise to rid themselves of their Soviet oppressors if they had not possessed enormous faith; and to their faith in God it was necessary that they should add the belief in kindness, goodwill, and radical solidarity with each other, as taught by John Paul II.

It was Pope John Paul II, whom the co-founder of Solidarity named as Father of that movement, who stated that genuine solidarity involves truth and courage – the very things now shown in uncommon acts of generosity by the Polish people.

With the influx of not only ethnic Ukrainians, but also Belorussians and inhabitants of Latin America and Africa for whom Ukraine was a new home, Poland may be restoring its historic character as the homeland for many peoples.

The solidarity shown by the Poles toward their Ukrainian neighbors reveals the moral beauty and cultural treasure of the nations in Central Europe. The experience is also reaffirming the deepest part of Poland’s Christian identity, which the Soviet Union sought over four decades to annihilate, but once reasserted, ultimately triumphed over that evil empire.  

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, theologian, and researcher.