Tag Archives: poland


Originally published February 21, 2017.

Solidarity was an independent Polish Trade Union that was founded on the 17th of September 1980, under the leadership of Lech Walęsa at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk.

Solidarity was the first trade union to operate in a Warsaw Pact country that was not controlled by a communist party. Through its first year membership reached 9.5 million members. Membership peaked at 10 million members (about 1/3 of the working population) by its first congress in 1981.

Through the 1980’s Solidarity was a social movement that used civil resistance to advance workers rights and social change. The Polish government attempted to bust the union by imposing martial law and years of political repression.

Throughout these years Solidarity was supported by the Pope and the United States. The financial support provided by the US is estimated to be as much as $50 million.

Despite the best efforts of the Polish government, Solidarity would not be defeated and it was forced to negotiate with Walęsa and his union.

By the end of August 1989 Solidarity formed a coalition government. This was followed in 1990 by Lech Walęsa becoming president of Poland.


Poland Goes Luna “16”

Originally published January 28, 2013.

On November 20th, 1970 Poland issued a sheet of 8, 2.50 zloty, stamps to commemorate the Russian Luna 16 unmanned moon mission.

Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to land and return from the moon with a lunar soil sample.  It was the third mission overall to return samples (The first were Apollo 11 and 12) to Earth and the first for the Russian Space Program.

Launched from the Baikonaur Cosmodrome on September 12, 1976, Luna 16 started its descent to the Moon on the 20th of September 1970, it landed on the lunar surface approximately 100 km East of Webbs Crater, in the Sea of Fertility.  Within an hour of landing the probe began drilling into the lunar soil to collect a soil sample.  After reaching a depth of 35cm (13.77 inches), a soil sample weighing 101 grams (roughly the weight of king-size chocolate bar) was taken and placed in the probe.

On the 21st of September, more than 26 hours on the surface of the Moon the upper stage of the Luna 16 probe departed the Moon.  Landing in Kazakhstan on the 24th of September Luna 16 brought its sample back to be analyzed.

Three soil samples from Luna 16 were sold at auction by Sothebys for $442,500 in 1993.


Paintings by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz

Originally published January 18, 2009

On December 6, 1985, Poland issued a 5 stamp set of Paintings by the Polish artist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. Witkiewicz was born in Warsaw on February 24, 1885. He was the son of architect and art critic Stanislaw Witkiewicz and his Godmother was the internationally famous actress Helena Modrzejewska.

Witkacy, as he liked to be called, was homeschooled as a child and was encouraged to pursue interests in many fields. After an early tragedy in his life, he was asked to travel to Oceania to act as a draftsman and photographer. Whether he went is in dispute as it was probably interrupted by World War I. On his return he enlisted as an officer in the Imperial Russian Army. He lived through the Russian Revolution while he was in St. Petersburg.

Witkacy was determined to be an artist and some of his earlier work received critical attention. He was also known as a photographer, playwright, philosopher and novelist.

His self-portrait completed in 1931 is pictured on the 10 zloty stamp.

Witkacy was a member of the Polish avant-garde artists called the Formists. He also opened the Portrait Firm which was a commercial enterprise where he painted portraits based on customer specifications often under the influence of Narcotics.

The 5 zloty stamp features the painting “Marysia and Burek in Ceylon”. It was completed between 1920-21 and was done in oil. It is in the National Museum of Cracow. The second 10 zloty stamp features the painting “Woman with a fox”.

Completed in 1917, Witkacy’s “Compositions” is on the 20 zloty stamp. The final stamp in the set is the 25 zloty value featuring the “Portrait of Nena Stachurska” which was done by Witkacy’s Portrait Firm in 1929. It is currently housed in the Tatra Museum. During his life, he wrote 3 novels that have been translated into English. He also wrote over 40 plays 21 of which still survive.

After the invasion of Poland in World War II, he escaped to eastern Poland with his lover. After the Russian invasion later in September 1939, Witkacy committed suicide.

It wasn’t until after the war that Witkacy’s reputation started to shine. Several Polish writers brought his works to the forefront at home and internationally. His play “The Crazy Locomotive” won an Obie.

In an ironic twist, while under communist rule, the Polish Culture Ministry decided to relocate Witkacy’s remains to his town of birth for a solemn burial. 50 years after the publication of his last novel genetic testing discovered that the remains were actually that of an unknown Ukranian woman.

Wikipedia. Stanislaw_Ignacy_Witkiewicz. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanis%C5%82aw_Ignacy_Witkiewicz
Culture.pl. Polish culture: Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy). http://www.culture.pl/en/culture/artykuly/os_witkiewicz_stanislaw_ignacy
Mark Rudnicki & Info Poland. Witkacy: Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz 1885-1939 by. http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/witkacy/witkacy.html