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Author: Shana Penn

An unambiguous legacy. Women and Solidarity

During the 1980s, I witnessed the momentous events in Poland from afar and worked with human rights groups to lend support to pro-democracy activists. By 1988, I prepared for my first research visit to Poland to examine Solidarity’s gender dynamics. What stood out was that Solidarity was a democratic movement that did not advocate gender equality.

In mid-November of 2020 I participated in a roundtable at the annual conference of the Association of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) on the theme, “Polish Solidarity: A Glorious Revolution and its Unexpectedly Tortuous Aftermath.” Joining me virtually were Timothy Garton Ash, Ireneusz Krzeminski, Jan Kubik, and David Ost. We were to reflect on the trajectory of this once enormous social movement in the post-communist reality. I, in particular, was invited to reflect on my work initiated by Solidarity’s Secret: The Women Who Defeated Communism in Poland, which I had published in 2005 and again in 2014. By the time of the academic roundtable, the world was riveted on the third, exhilarating week of wildly audacious, feminist-initiated, grassroots nationwide demonstrations across Poland in support of reproductive rights, democratic rule of law and separation of state and church. The euphoria of revolution was palpable.

February 3, 2021 - Shana Penn

Nurturing a Jewish revival in Poland

An interview with Shana Penn, executive director of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture. Interviewer: Daniel Gleichgewicht

DANIEL GLEICHGEWICHT: You have worked in support of Jewish cultural revitalisation in Poland for many years now. How would you describe the way Jewish life in Poland has changed over this time?

The end of state socialism in 1989 made it possible to reimagine Poland as a place where Jews might live openly, in relative freedom and security. The options were manifold, drawing from the cultural vibrancy that once made Poland the centre of the Jewish world, to one’s exposure to Jewish life in the US, Israel or other parts of Europe, to the extension of one’s own Jewish upbringing in Poland.

March 4, 2019 - Daniel Gleichgewicht Shana Penn

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