Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan


(Strajk - Die Heldin von Danzig, Germany, Poland, 2006)

This is the fictionalized story of Anna Walentynowicz, who worked at the same Polish shipyard as Lech Walesa during the labor unrest that eventually led to the collapse of the Polish Communist regime, and, it can be argued, the downfall of communism in Europe and Russia. If this story is to be believed (and from what I can find out, it’s pretty accurate) she really had more to do with the Solidarity movement than Walesa did. She begins in 1961 as a real Hero of Labor, meeting and exceeding her work quotas and being named Worker of the Year (or some such crap) 10 years in a row. This doesn’t endear her to her fellow workers (“We have an arrangement. They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”), but she doesn’t much care. She’s one of those firecrackers who simply get things done. She’s irrepressible, and always upbeat, though tragedy enters her life. She is gradually radicalized by conditions at the yard and treatment of the workers, and she proves to be as effective at rabble-rousing as she was at welding and crane operation. How ironic that the workers had to practically stage an armed rebellion to deal with another organization, one ostensibly formed to protect the workers themselves: the slimy, corrupt, insensitive, brutal Gestapo known as the Communist Party. She is put through the wringer, but her cause eventually prevails … though, of course, it is Walesa who ends up with most of the glory. She’s virtually unknown in the West, but remembered in Poland. The story is well-told and moving, and Katharina Thalbach, the German actress with Bette Davis eyes who portrays Anna (Agnieszka in the movie) is very good.