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Lech Walesa to visit Wayne State University in Detroit

October 22, 2010

DETROIT-- In conjunction with the opening of the new exhibit of SOLIDARNOSC:

Poland’s Struggle for Freedom” at the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University, Lech Walesa will make an appearance on campus.  The former President of Poland is on limited tour in America to bring attention to the 30 year anniversary of the Solidarity labor movement. 

The exhibit will open October 27, 2010 and run until July 1, 2011.  The Reuther Library at 5401 Cass Ave. is across from the Main Detroit Public Library.  “We are just the ambassador’s as so many people helped including the Office of the President, at Wayne State,” said Michael Smith.

Smith, Director of the Reuther Library at WSU and Marcin Chumiecki, Director of the ‘Polish Mission’ at St. Mary’s Schools at Orchard Lake got together last February and went to Miami to invite Lech Walesa to help kick off the exhibit.

The appearance of Walesa in Detroit is a historic event that will highlight the 30 year anniversary of the Solidarity movement.  October is also Polish Heritage Month in America.  Smith added, “Wayne State invites the whole community to view the displays during its run.  It is concise, informative and historical.  The exhibit will be open to the public starting at 9:00 A.M. on Wednesday October 27.”

The Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at WSU is the largest labor archive in North America.  Its mission is to collect, preserve and provide access to the heritage of the American labor movement.  Reuther was the long time leader of the United Auto Workers and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1995 by President Bill Clinton.  In Metro Detroit the I-696 Freeway is named the Walter P. Reuther Freeway in his honor.

“The Reuther Library has a strong tradition of reaching out into the community to document our labor history,” Smith added.  “We will have some very rare photos and artifacts from Soldiarnosc in the exhibit. This exhibit is so important for Detroit.”  
Smith and Chumiecki also travelled to Poland to research and document the background for the exhibit.  There are first person accounts, which are the most valuable in a history account.  Some items are on loan from the Polish Mission.  Smith added, “Walesa said he was honored to come to Detroit to announce the opening of this exhibit.  He was genuinely enthused and of course added insights that only he could do.  This is living history.”

Walesa, who will be on a tight and restricted schedule during his Detroit visit, was the first democratically elected president in postwar Poland.  He was President of Poland from 1990-95.  He was front and center for the “Solidarity” trade union movement that eventually changed Poland and led to the break of control from Russia.  This was the seeds for the political changing of the borders of the USSR.

A former welder at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his human rights efforts throughout Europe. 

Wanda Strozyk, President of Fiat Solidarity Union in Poland will also be appearing in Detroit.  The visit just happens to coincide with a historic labor vote that will affect the aviation industry. Thru November 3, the Delta Airlines Flight Attendants and the former Northwest Airlines F/A’s are voting to determine if there is going to be representation by the Association of Flight Attendants-Communication Workers of America (AFL-CIO).  Delta is now the largest commercial airline in the world.

Reuther and his wife May were killed in a 1979 plane crash near Pellston, Michigan. 

Groups can make arrangements to view the exhibit at 313-577-4024, starting October 27.

By Raymond Rolak