This is the story of Agnieszka - the
smallest crane operator in the world, an orphan who becomes
a mother, a refugee who finds a home, an illiterate who
writes history. On the one hand, the film deals with the
paradigmatic aspect of history, that is, the recurring
genesis of political movements. First come the dreamers,
then the rebels, then the radicals and finally the
politicians. And they remain. In the civil rights movements,
the Green parties, the French Revolution, the Russian
Revolution and so on… And it is often the women who start
the ball rolling. It is always those who follow their
calling; the secular saints - they are the people whose
strength and vision empower countless others.
On the other hand, Strike is an uplifting story of personal
courage. Agnieszka’s was a constant uphill struggle. She was
an illiterate, an orphan, a poor and lonely soul who could
just as easily have ended up as an alcoholic, a broken and
embittered woman. That is what is so wonderful and
enchanting about her life - and so inspiring: each and every
one of us can change the world.
The life of this small but extraordinary woman is told in
three decisive periods, beginning in 1961. Agnieszka is only
1,60 meters tall, nearly illiterate and yet manages to work
her way up, with sheer diligence and discipline, from
unskilled laborer to crane operator in the Gdansk shipyard.
She accepts an invitation to receive an honor on
International Woman’s Day with the same good nature as she
does the assurance of the shipyard management that her job
will never be in danger. Agnieszka draws her strength from
her illegitimate son Krystian and the budding love she has
for Kazimierz, a trombone playing worker in the shipyard.
But her short-lived happiness threatens to come to abrupt
end when the shipyard doctor callously informs her that she
has cancer and will soon die Who will look after her son?
Kazimierz wants to marry her now more than ever. He wants to
be a good father to Krystian. The small family becomes the
basis for each of them to support the other. But even before
their borrowed time runs out, Kazimierz suddenly dies.
Agnieszka quarrels with God and numbs herself with work.
The working conditions in the shipyard are disastrous and
inhuman. When Agnieszka witnesses a fatal accident that was
caused by insufficient safety measures, her unswerving trust
in her employers begins to waver. The death of the worker is
not classified as an accident so that the shipyard will not
have to pay the widow a pension.
Agnieszka’s clear sense of justice mobilizes her. She helps
the widow receive a pension by organizing public protests.
Her personal commitment is not welcomed by the management.
They try to silence her, offer her money, and even threaten
her with refusing Krystian admittance to the university. In
the face of all threats, Agnieszka persuades workers to
initiate a solemn vigil to commemorate the unnecessary death
of their co-workers.
It is around this time that she meets a young man who is
working with others in the
underground for free labor unions. Agnieszka’s
unconditional, straightforward nature
appeals to them. They are arrested almost simultaneously.
Agnieszka spends only one night in jail but the authorities
let her know that they will stop at nothing if she continues
By the time the year 1978 rings in, Agnieszka has had
several grueling years behind her. The slight advances in
the struggle against an increasingly draconian regime cannot
make up for the fact that Krystian has turned away from her.
Agnieszka is fired. It’s more than just losing a job. Up
there on the crane with her coworkers and friends, with the
magnificent view of the sea that is where her home is.
Agnieszka refuses to eat humble pie and a miracle happens:
thousands of shipyard workers go on strike on her behalf.
Agnieszka sees that by spreading the strike to other large,
state-run factories throughout Poland, they can mobilize the
masses in the struggle for free labor unions. And again, it
is she who is not fooled by the halfhearted concessions the
powerful promise if the workers end the strike. She plays a
decisive role in the inception of Solidarity and becomes the
symbol and heart of the movement in Gdansk.
Laemmle Zeller Films. All rights reserved.
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