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Alina Pienkowska, 50; Polish Activist Was a Founder of Solidarity

From Staff and Wire Reports

Alina Pienkowska, 50, a founding member of Poland’s Solidarity labor union and a key player in the 1980 Gdansk shipyard strike that launched its struggle against communism, died of cancer Oct. 17 at a hospital in Gdansk.

In the 1970s, Pienkowska joined the Free Trade Unions, a clandestine anti-communist labor organization in Gdansk, where she met the future Solidarity founder, Lech Walesa, and Bogdan Borusewicz, whom she married in 1983.

She was working as a shipyard clinic nurse on Aug. 14, 1980, when Gdansk workers laid down their tools.

With telephone lines to the rest of the yard cut off by authorities, she called a fellow dissident, who spread the news across Poland, thus launching strikes in hundreds of factories.

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Pienkowska was among a handful of activists who persuaded the strikers to continue their protest two days later, despite promises of improved working conditions.

On Aug. 31, communist authorities signed an agreement with the strikers, legalizing Solidarity and promising to ease political restrictions.

Pienkowska, who was one of the authors of the agreement, remained an underground Solidarity activist after the government’s martial law crackdown a year later.

She was one of Solidarity’s regional leaders in Gdansk for a decade.

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