W drugim szeregu – rola i znaczenie kobiet w działalności szczecińskiej opozycji
In the Second Row: The Role and Meaning of Women in the Activity of Szczecin Opposition
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Thanks to anticommunist opposition – its coming into existence and activity – some democratic changes happened in Poland in 1989. Hardly ever had the participation of women in the process of toppling the communist regime been mentioned so far. Nevertheless, their engagement in the anticommunist activity was huge and diverse. Also in the region of Szczecin, which became one of the most important opposition centers, the women’s participation in fight against communist authorities was very meaningful. Their presence can be observed in any forms of the resistance of the time. They took part almost in all strikes in the region, especially in the biggest workers’ protests in December 1970, January 1971 or in August 1980 and 1981. The women actively supported first openly working opposition organization such as Movement for Defense of Human and Civic Rights (Polish: Ruch Obrony Praw Człowieka i Obywatela, ROPCiO), Committee for Defense of the Workers (Polish: Komitet Obrony Robotników, abbreviated KOR). They were totally committed to building the structures of the most crucial social movement of the time – Independent Self-governing Trade Union (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy (NSZZ “Solidarność”). On the other hand, very few of their representatives were members of formal authorities of the new trade union. After the election in June 1981 only two women came into fifty-two-person Management of the Region NSZZ “Solidarność” Western Pomerania (Polish: Zarząd Regionu NSZZ “Solidarność” Pomorze Zachodnie). Those women’s strength was based first of all on their commitment to “Solidarity” work in their place of employment. Acting in their work committees in their places of employment they contended with more problems than men. Not only did they have to overcome the resistance of the party nomenclature but also they had to break the stereotype of a woman. Thanks to the women activity “Solidarity” rendered considerable services to the changes on the political field and also it contributed to the change of the traditional image of a woman as a housewife. Nonetheless, the time of marital law appeared to be the most important test of women’s organizational talents. There was a need of rebuilding union structures in secret and conspiratorial conditions because “Solidarity” was made illegal and most of its important activists were interned. The women efficiently organized charity help for the interned and their families. They attended hiding activists with care. Thanks to those activists it was possible to rebuild regional and national structures of the trade union and let them go underground. To make it possible it was necessary to keep contact among the activists. So women became liaisons for the most important activists who embodied the underground structure of “Solidarity”. It was also of the utmost importance to inform the society that despite repressions the trade union is still functioning. The underground press, which was then in its heyday, dealt with that. The participation of woman in the underground press development was very crucial. The women were printers, editors, authors of the texts and above all the distributors of illegal newspapers and literature. Paradoxically, women appeared to be so excellent conspirators because of the common stereotype of womanhood. The security services tracking all the signs of the society’s disobedience disregarded women as a potential threat. The women did not arouse anxiety of the officials as they were perceived as housewives devoted to the problems of every-day existence. The common participation of women in the opposition or underground movement did not only lead to invalidate the stereotype of a woman, but it strengthened the one – deep-rooted in the Polish culture – the romantic picture of the “Polish Mother”. Taking part in the conspiratorial activity women referred to the nineteenth- and twentieth-century underground activists from the times of national uprisings who brought up generations in the national spirit and also replaced men in conspiratorial ranks or military troops.
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