This was my 2nd visit to the Solidarnosc museum in Gdansk as I wanted to show it to my English friends during our weekend in Gdansk & Sopot, and I don’t think they were disappointed 🙂
This is not a huge museum, more like a few rooms in a bunker underground, the best thing about it though is how interactive it is. Couple of us not being huge museum buffs (and all my friends being English and not speaking Polish), the video screen’s, films from the era, newspapers…. and a photo in the prison cell, made it an easily absorbed history lesson. The computer stations have English subtitles as you watch films from the communist era and how it all reached the point that it did in 1989. The posters on the walls depicting those who died or fought through the communist rule are very poignant. And for an 80’s child, its very interesting (and sad) to see the poverty and rations the adults had to deal with when I was happily roaming the playgrounds of my home-town unaware.
The first thing you notice about the museum is the tank outside the entrance – the ‘peace keeping’ mechanism of the 80s and the Martial law era. When you go underground, the ticket you receive is actually a rations card like the one everyone had in those days, with the allocated boxes for cigarettes, tights and sugar. Then there’s a shop set up with a sign saying ‘back in a minute’ and empty shelves with only a couple bottles of vinegar (that’s how most people seem to remember shops from that era).
Again, being a child in the 80s, I mainly know of this from my parents and grandparents…. that the shops were empty, that you’d stand in a queue since early morning waiting your turn ( ladies with kids and elderly people got queue priority…. And from what I’m told didn’t receive the most friendly looks from the other shoppers). You would also often stand in a queue but you didn’t know what was on sale – you’d just hear on the grapevine – ‘they’re delivering something’ … So you’d queue and wait to see what it was!! Not quite the consumer paradise we have now :). It’s sad when you read the articles in the museum and learn that almost everything that was produced in Poland at the time, was swiftly exported out – not an easy time for the Poles.
There’s a large slab of wood on the wall in one of the rooms, and its the original list of the changes Lech Walesa and Solidarnosc demanded for the people of Poland – food, maternity pay, housing – it’s very interesting and poignant to read!
Don’t miss out seeing Lech Walesa’s Nobel prize in one of the rooms as well as a the cinema room showing the history of the 80s in Poland. It’s definitely a great museum to plan 2 or so hours in for during your tour of Gdansk!
Here’s the map of how to find the museum in Gdansk – it’s a short 10min walk from Gdansk Central station.
Read more about Gdansk and Poland on inlovewithpoland.com.