Gdansk, the Polish city where 25 years ago Solidarity was born and Communism faltered, is under siege again, this time from thousands of delegates, guests and the media who came to celebrate the anniversary of the historic Gdansk Accords.
"It Started in Gdansk" proclaims a billboard near the shipyard, where 25 years ago, on August 31, the Polish communist government granted striking workers the right to organize their own, democratic and independent trade union. And, as 25 years ago, the city today is teeming with visitors, media, and curious spectators. Over 30 foreign delegations, many headed by presidents or prime ministers are coming to this normally busy port city and tourist destination. The organizers are desperately trying to balance security, diplomatic protocol, and traditional Polish hospitality.
In the last days of August, Gdansk hosts a special commemorative convention of the Solidarity union, two major international conferences, and scores of concerts, exhibits, and religious events.
Amidst all this, visitors from all over the world are trying to have a good time and catch the last moments of the short northern summer.
Not everybody shares in the general festive mood. Solidarity members from the Gdansk shipyard, the birthplace of Solidarity, announced a protest demonstration to underscore the difficult financial situation of their company, which had to cut production and lay off workers as a result of market reforms.