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September 4, 2001

'Solidarity' exhibit opens gallery

By Eric Rangus


The end of the Cold War, it is generally agreed, began in Poland in 1980 with the founding of Solidarity, the Polish Free Trade Union. A new photography exhibit will educate the Emory community about this incredibly significant event.

“Solidarity: Twenty Years of History” opens today in the Woodruff Library’s third-floor Corridor Gallery. It chronicles the history of the Polish trade union, from its birth in the Gdansk shipyard in August 1980 up to the June 1999 visit of the man who is perhaps Poland’s most famous native, Pope John Paul II.

‘When we talk about the end of the Cold War, we tend to view it as the United States against the Soviet Union,” said Fraser Harbutt, associate professor of history. “But there was an important European dimension. Solidarity was a key catalyst to the collapse of communism.”

“Solidarity” features more than 70 photographs ranging from worker demonstrations in the early 1980s to visits by U.S. dignitaries such as former President Ronald Reagan and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright in the 1990s.

The pictures were taken by both professional photographers and amateurs in secret. Some were kept in official Communist Party archives and not released until free elections came to the

Certain images are quite chilling, such as a photo of one demonstrator, Michal Adamowicz, being carried by four men, each gripping and arm or leg, to the hospital after being shot in the head. He would die three days later.

While the exhibit’s focus is on Solidarity and the battle pitting Polish workers against an oppressive one-party state, its story also encompasses the fall of communism as well as the journey of Poland—a Eastern European nation of 40 million—from a Warsaw Pact satellite of the former Soviet Union to a member of NATO and prospective membership in the European Union.

“Conventional wisdom was that a totalitarian regime like the old Soviet Union could only be upset from the outside,” Harbutt said. “You needed World War II to stop Hitler,[for example]. There was very little belief that the Soviet Union could die from within, but a lot of historians would agree that it did.”

“Students should be really interested in this event,” said Schatten Gallery Director Valerie Watkins. “[Solidarity] was a major historical event for Eastern Europe during the 20th century, and it took place when our students were just coming into this world. It was the first chink in the wall of communism.”

The exhibit is cosponsored by the Russian and East European Studies program, the history department, the Polish Embassy and the Polish Club of Atlanta, and it will be on display until
Oct. 5.

Elizabeth Gürtler-Krawczynska, associate professor of radiology and a vice president of the Polish Club of Atlanta, was the driving force behind the effort to bring the Solidarity exhibit to Emory. She learned of its existence last October. She organized campus sponsorship and contacted Watkins, who was able to schedule a showing in the Corridor Gallery.

“I was in Poland at that time, and the feeling was incredible,” Gürtler-Krawczynska said. “It would not have happened without Pope John Paul II in Rome. With his moral support people overcame [their] fear. There was nothing to lose, and they were united by thoughts of country. The Emory community should learn more about Poland and her constant fight for freedom and democracy.”
Harbutt will deliver the keynote address at the exhibit’s official, invitation-only opening, Sept. 7. Joining him will be Polish Consul Jaroslaw Lasinski, who will be visiting from Washington.

Ten days after the debut of “Solidarity,” the Schatten Gallery will present a multimedia exhibition called “The Third Eye: Images of Ritual India.” It presents, in photographs and video, a trip taken by several Emory faculty members and students to India earlier this year. The travelers took all of their own pictures and religion Professor Paul Courtright shot video documenting Indian spiritual practices.

“The Third Eye” opens Sept. 14. For Schatten Gallery hours, call 404-727-6868.


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