Archives of National Commission of Solidarity Trade Union
National Commission of "Solidarity" Trade Union collects, develops, stores, and publishes archival materials of the Independent Self-governing Labour Union "Solidarity”, primarily from the 1976-1990 period. The Archives are located at the National Commission of "Solidarity" head office and serve the purpose of documenting the social phenomenon of democratic opposition in Poland, in particular in the 1980s. Apart from documents it holds audio and video recordings, photographs, and other items. The Archives continuously add and digitise new, both private and institutional, collections from various parts of Poland.
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Name of collection
- Archives of the National Commission of the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union "Solidarity"
Provenance and cultural activities
National Commission of "Solidarity" Trade Union collects, develops, stores, and publishes archival materials of the Independent Self-governing Labour Union "Solidarity". The Archives are located in the National Commission of "Solidarity" head office and serve the purpose of documenting the social phenomenon of democratic opposition in Poland, in particular in the 1980s.
First materials were acquired by the National Commission's archives in 1991 and included documentation from the 1980-1981 period confiscated by the Polish People's Republic authorities after the introduction of martial law. At that time the purpose of the archives was the storage of the files. Edward Brejnik, who took his office in 1994, was the first archivist of the National Commission, after the Praesidium of the National Commission decided to establish institution's archive. Brejnik collected materials from the Ministry of Interior which had been confiscated by the Security Service (SB) and later returned to "Solidarity" in 1997. Until 1998 the Archives of the National Committee functioned as an institution's archive. The majority of archival materials were received around year 2000 and originated from the Coordinating Office of the "Solidarity" in Brussels. The same year historical section of the Archives was created.
In 2012 a reading-room of historical materials was created, accommodating six users at a time, offering a printed list of file groups, collections, file groups’ inventory, and a scientific reference library. The reading-room was equipped with two computers with access to Digital Archives of the "Solidarity" Trade Union, SEZAM and IZA databases, electronic list of file groups and collections, file groups’ inventory and scanned documents from the Archives of National Commission of "Solidarity" Trade Union. Since 2012, under the agreement between the National Commission and the Head Office of the State Archives, the Archives of the National Commission of "Solidarity" Trade Union have been incorporated into the SEZAM and IZA systems, and are available at the State Archive's website. Additionally, printed inventories and book collections related to "Solidarity" and the opposition of the 1970s and 1980s are available at the head office of the Archives.
The majority of the collection is available to Archives’ users, mainly scholars and former trade union activists, on site. It is also possible to obtain scanned copies of materials. The materials collected at the Archive illustrate numerous aspects of functioning of the trade union movement after Solidarity Trade Union has been officially registered, as well as of its predecessors, i.e. organisations acting as the democratic opposition after 1976, such as Workers’ Defence Committee (KOR), Young Poland Movement, Free Trade Unions of the Coast, or the Federation of Fighting Youth (Federacja Młodzieży Walczącej). The Archives also hold personal memorabilia: memoirs and dairies from the December 1970 or the August 1980, as well as letters to Lech Wałęsa from all across Poland.
The collection is used not only for historical or sociological research, but also commemorates the legacy of "Solidarity" and helps the members of Solidarity to keep, structure, and verify their memories from the time of their activity in the democratic opposition.
Description of content
The collection at the Archives of the National Commission of "Solidarity" Trade Union contains materials that document various methods of functioning of the democratic and cultural opposition against socialism in the 1980s. The Archives contain predominantly materials from the 1976-1990 period, such as:
- Records concerning national, foreign, regional, and specific company-level structure of the "Solidarity" Trade Union, including the National Coordinating Commission (Krajowa Komisja Porozumiewawcza), National Commission, National Executive Commission, and Regional Commission of Solidarity Trade Union;
- Records of social committees organised and functioning within the framework of Solidarity Trade Union structure;
- The heritage of Solidarity chaplains, father Henryk Jankowski, and father Hilary Jastak;
- Letters of private persons and institutions to Mr Lech Wałęsa dated between 1983 and 1989;
- Materials regarding strikes and political events in Polish People's Republic, Journals and independent publications by Solidarity Trade Union and Committee for Social Self-Defence KOR, Young Poland Movement, Free Trade Unions of the Coast (Wolne Związki Zawodowe Wybrzeża).
Regarding the topics tackled by the collection, first and foremost, the collection illustrates the birth, the development, and the consolidation of organisational and political structures of the "Solidarity" trade union. The documents of "Solidarity"'s company commissions from across Poland offer insight into how the movement initiated in 1980 was systematically managed; they also show different strategies assumed by political activists, and their impact on the future of the union.
The collection also includes personal documents of father Jastak and father Jankowski, who combined civic commitment with their service as representatives of Catholic Church in parishes of Pomorskie region.The diaries from the December of 1970 and other memoirs of common participants and observers of these events are equally interesting. As in case of the letters sent to Lech Wałęsa, they are a source of information about the perception of "Solidarity"'s actions and the atmosphere of the 1970s and the 1980s; a period in which Poles hoped for change. It is not only a testimony of resistance and dissent, but also of how the citizens were developing trust in a political action that reached its peak in the August of 1980.
A rich collection of ephemeral prints, such as samizdat and leaflets, shows which books and materials constituted sources of inspiration for major authors of political literature. These materials are also a source of information on satirical culture of that period, the Archives contain hand- and typewritten lyrics, jokes, and happenings ridiculing the official authorities and their slogans.
A substantial, albeit not entirely catalogued, part of the collection comprises commemorative plaques, stamps, flags, pennants, and artefacts produced by industrial plants and given to "Solidarity" activists (e.g. commemorative tiles produced by Opoczno ceramics plant, mugs, and banners). They illustrate the aesthetics, as well as religious and historical symbols, significant at that time, that were often referred to by activists and supporters of "Solidarity".
- applied arts objects (folk art, decorative arts, etc.): 500-999
- film: 100-499
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
- photos: 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- parts are closed to the public
- The Archives of National Commission of the "Solidarity" Trade Union functions as a source of materials for different researchers and institutions, but has not yet published any catalogues or publications under its own name.
Part of network
Author(s) of this page
- Gospodarczyk, Hanna
Grochowski, Łukasz, interview by Gospodarczyk, Hanna , July 05, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection