Several heads of state and numerous foreign delegations came to Gdansk, the birthplace of Solidarity, to pay tribute to the bloodless Polish revolution of 25 years ago.
Solidarity as an event with global repercussions was the main theme of the closing session of the anniversary commemorations in Gdansk. Greeted by a standing ovation, the historical leader of Solidarity, Lech Walesa, said that without firing a single shot Solidarity launched a new epoch of intellect and information.
He said no generation was better positioned to bring peace and prosperity to the world. But he pointed out that a lot still needs to be done to achieve a lasting stability. The two superpowers that kept each other in check were replaced by a single superpower. But what should be the role of this superpower in the world? And what about the United Nations, which was created for different times, but is still needed? Should the world have to choose between the U.S. and the U.N.?, asked Mr. Walesa.
The current president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, was at the time of the Solidarity strikes a young communist official. He said all Poles should be grateful to Mr. Walesa and other Solidarity leaders for bringing about political change in their country and in the whole region. But he mentioned that the change would not be possible without Mikhail Gorbachev's "perestroika" in the Soviet Union and the "Round Table" negotiations of 1989, when members of the Polish Communist government and leaders of the Polish opposition together forged a transition to democracy.
Mr. Kwasniewski added the world still needs solidarity. "We need Solidarity in Poland, in Europe, and in the world. We must be with each other and for each other, not everybody against everybody else," said the Polish president referring to the words of the late pope John Paul II.
Another guest at the Gdansk celebrations, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel-Barroso said that without Solidarity there would not be the European Union that exists today. He added, "there is no Europe without freedom and solidarity."
Victor Jushchenko, the president of Ukraine, the second speaker at the Gdansk gathering, was greeted by an enthusiastic standing ovation. Mr. Jushchenko spoke about Lech Walesa's visit in Kiev during the Orange Revolution and about the gratitude Ukrainians feel for the Polish support. He said the Ukrainian nation sees its future in a united Europe and that Europe also needs a free, democratic Ukraine.
The United States was represented in Gdansk by former Secretary of State James Baker. Before reading a message from President Bush, Mr. Baker spoke about the long-standing American support for Poland and Solidarity.
"As America's secretary of state in the first months and years of Poland's regained freedom, I had the great pleasure of helping to lay the cornerstone under the reestablished Polish-American alliance," he said. "Today Poland and America stand together in support of freedom for others all around the world, as America stood with Poland in the years of its struggle."
Former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel said that if the August 31 Solidarity anniversary is going to be marked as the day of freedom and solidarity, democratic nations must declare their solidarity with nations that are still not free. He mentioned Belarus, Cuba, Burma, and North Korea.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former National Security Advisor to President Carter, spoke in his native tongue, Polish. He stressed the geopolitical significance of Solidarity:
"Solidarity has an assured place in the pantheon of humanity's great revolutions," he said. He added, "As the French and American revolutions and as the Gandhi revolution in India, Solidarity was the beginning of a political tsunami that swept away the Soviet bloc, then the Soviet Union itself and buried its spiteful ideology."
During the time of its struggle, said Mr. Brzezinski, Solidarity was rather alone in Europe, but not in America. President Carter, he added, was sure that the system based on outdated ideology and force would not survive and it was America's duty to support Poland's aspirations.
"We have done so," he said. "For example, in December 1980 by warning Moscow about possible dangerous consequences of an armed intervention in Poland."
Mr. Brzezinski said that Solidarity was successful because it was much more that a political movement, a trade union, or even an effort to regain national sovereignty
"It was not only a movement but a spirit," he said, adding that Solidarity was also "a mighty moral force based on humanistic, religious and democratic values; it was a coalition without class or national hatred, but striving for social reconciliation and reconciliation with Poland's neighbors."
Mr. Brzezinski concluded, saying today's Poland and today's world still need this spirit in order to make the rise of Solidarity a true and durable historical breakthrough.
Absent from the Solidarity commemorations in Poland were official representatives of Russia and Belarus.
At the end of the celebrations, participants presented the text of a resolution calling for the establishment of "International Freedom and Solidarity Day". The ceremonies ended with a Mass, celebrated at Solidarity Square in front of the Gdansk shipyard.