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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » December 3, 2008
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On the Freedom Trail
December 3, 2008   
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A journey on a special train, the Solidarity Express, along the Vistula River from southern Poland all the way to the Baltic, and meetings with Lech Wałęsa, the Dalai Lama and other Nobel Peace Prize winners are just some of the events that await 200 young people from 40 countries who are coming to Poland in December at the invitation of the European Center for Solidarity.

"We were debating how to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Lech Wałęsa's receiving the Nobel Peace Prize by inviting young people and reminding them of Solidarity's ideals," said Father Maciej Zięba, director of the European Center for Solidarity in Gdańsk. "We also wanted to remind the international public that the demolition of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of divided Europe, was only possible thanks to Solidarity's peaceful struggle for dignity and freedom in this part of Europe. We thus came up with the Solidarity Express."

From Dec. 1-7, 200 young people from 40 countries will travel across Poland on the special train visiting places where the word "freedom" acquired a particularly dramatic meaning, from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Warsaw and to Westerplatte on the Baltic Sea, sites which witnessed deliberate and systematic efforts to suppress human dignity. At the end, the train will take its passengers to Gdańsk and the Gdańsk Shipyard.

Apart from viewing the symbolic sites, the Solidarity Express passengers will take part in workshops on the role of Solidarity in the rise of a democratic and peaceful order in the world. They will also meet prominent politician, social activist and concentration camp survivor Prof. Władysław Bartoszewski to discuss the meaning of the struggle for values and they will hear several lectures by American philosopher, social activist and writer George Weigel. The special train ride will also serve as an opportunity for the young people to establish friendly relationships, regardless of their countries of origin, race or religious beliefs.

On Dec. 5, the visitors will join over 600 young people from across Poland for a discussion about current threats to freedom and solidarity around the world. The Youth Forum will also be attended by Nobel Peace Prize winners who are coming to Gdańsk for the 25th anniversary of Lech Wałęsa being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The invited guests include the 14th Dalai Lama, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Shirin Ebadi and Wałęsa himself.

The unique train ride will end with an international conference entitled "Solidarity for the Future" to be held Dec. 6 and organized by the Lech Wałęsa Institute. Apart from the young guests, participants will include Nobel Prize winners, members of governments and heads of state from around the world.

The European Center for Solidarity has planned the Solidarity Express as a cyclic event to provide an international forum for the exchange of ideas and to support joint initiatives that seek to empower solidarity, dignity and freedom in every corner of the world.

The European Center for Solidarity is a cultural, academic and educational institution, combined with a modern museum and archive, established to document democratic and freedom movements in the recent history of Poland and Europe. The founding act for the European Solidarity Center was signed Nov. 8, 2007, by EU leaders and heads of states and governments who had come to Gdańsk on the 25th anniversary of the August 1980 events that precipitated a democratic movement which changed the world.

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