Henryk Donskoi, Ryszard Kuffel, Zbigniew Olbięcki, Stanisław Ostrowski, Janusz Ośka, Tadeusz Rogalski, Władysław Skoworodko, Eugeniusz Skuratko, Stanisław Sukiennik, Czesław Szultk, [...........]
Shipyard Workers 2004 vol. 1 – in Polish
Shipyard Workers 2004 vol. 2 – in Polish
When they launch a ship I feel proud that I have contributed to its construction. I feel there’s a part of my labour in it. I have got involved in this job and I have to stay here till the end although my health is getting worse and often I’m fed up with it all.
All in all I’m lucky because when I was young and I worked on a ship I was climbing down a ladder into the engine room, a plank fell down on me from some scaffolding. From the very funnel, it slipped down my back like this. One rung lower and it would have cut my arm off.
When they were closing down some of the workshops I didn’t feel good because without a job – where, what should I do? Steal or what? It wasn’t pleasant. If you’re young it’s not a problem, if you’ve got skills you will always find something, but when you’re old you have to stick to one place.
I’m connected to this place, I’ve been working here for so long that it would be hard for me to find something new, to feel good in another job. When I retire I will be visiting the shipyard, I will be coming here. I forgot about my dreams. Man goes where the money is. It doesn’t always work out as one would like. I wanted to build a house, in my spare time I liked playing football, listening to music, sunbathing.
So much work has been put into this place, so many people used to work here and now it’s all disappearing. I can’t describe these feelings.
Now everybody has a materialistic approach to work, you have to make a profit, gain things. Here you work to survive. It’s sad because one worked here for so long and saw this workplace thrive, and suddenly they made a desert out of it. It’s not worth talking about it. It won’t change a thing.
In 1962 I began working in the shipyard. I was 14. I didn’t think I’d stay here for so long. This was meant to be a youthful adventure. I finished my technical school and maybe I wouldn’t have worked yet but I got into evening school and wanted to graduate and so I stayed.
Army, marriage, then children and then you don’t search any more if you’ve found your place. For so many years I saw people come and go and a man stays the same all the time. For 35 years I worked directly on the ships, then I had some problems with my heart so they took me off. In this hall I’ve been working for seven years. At this moment I don’t have anywhere to move on to. Who would employ me two years before my retirement? Anyway my health isn’t the best. Of all the people that came here with me, from my school, only four stayed on. People have dispersed all over the world and with this four we’re friends to this day. I meet the old retired workers at the doctor’s or at funerals and they want to know what’s happening in the shipyard, want to know the way things are now.
You have to think twice if you want to get a job in the shipyard, because it’s hard here. When you’re young you don’t know what is waiting for you, but it’s good to think it over if you want to commit to this place, because later it’s hard to let go.
It will be hard for me to leave this place and the people that work here. You don’t know if you will make it to retirement, but you have to be optimistic. Sometimes it’s better not to think about that, because you may break down. It’s hard to leave, you feel so redundant, especially when you don’t have any other activity like keeping a garden or something, when you don’t have any additional entertainment, you feel really sad. In 1997 when they fired us and we didn’t know how it was gonna be with the shipyard, it was scary. I was worried I was too old and not in good health. Was I supposed to go on a dole? What money is this – a few pennies? And then where…? I can’t imagine anything other built in this place. There is a canal close to here, the open sea is close, there is no other way but to build ships non–stop, bigger or smaller but keep on building.
In primary school they said that countries that lay by the sea have their „window to the world”. A man was eager to work, he would go to the shipyard with pleasure. Now it’s sad to even look at the shipyard. When they were cutting the machines to sell them for scrap my heart was breaking. Many people gained power by climbing on our shoulders. Others established their own companies. And we can’t wait to get our salaries. I’m the child of the shipyard. I began my work here and here I will stay. For good and for bad.
Man feels so harmed, cheated, not appreciated. We’re only here to toil, nothing more. And only while we’re healthy enough, because when you’re not they will kick you out as well. I learned that there is no point in trusting people too much, unless you have a good friend. I have such a friend, he retired last year. Actually they let him go. We meet up at his place or mine. Shipyard workers fought for freedom and they have to pay for it. We were better off in those days. Only I worked in the family, my wife didn’t because the kids were young. On top of that I was also building a house. And now what? There is only me and my wife now, I’m not saying I can’t afford a bread but for the work I do I should be getting paid three times as much.
There’s work, let’s hope there will be more money. There won’t be a miracle. Financial security is most important, sometimes people commit suicides because of that. There were no problems at my home, I brought up children, grandchildren. When I retire I will probably miss the shipyard in the beginning. I will come here, sort out some documents, but I have a house in a countryside and this is the direction I will follow. A house, walks in the forest and my grandchildren will compensate for the lack of the shipyard. I hope I’ll stay in good health.
I’m moderately satisfied. When you look at the wages of the bosses there’s too big of a difference compared to regular hard working people. When it’s
a private business you can understand it somehow. But when it goes from the state budget and a given employee gets a lot and another one gets this 800 zloty, like people in health services or education, it hurts because it’s not fair. State budget is indebted, and the elites take so much money, the society is not happy. You know, it’s politics, and with politics we don’t mess. Generally the majority is set for working, nothing more. Selling of the shipyard is painful for the workers. A wealth elaborated by our grandparents was passed on so easily, somebody got rid of the land, machines, buildings. It hurts. When you have a job, you can provide for your family, you feel satisfied, you feel everything is normal.
This month, this year it’s the 35th anniversary of my work. My work proceeds normally. I hope to make it to the retirement age when I’ll meet all the conditions to leave the shipyard. Then a man is psychically satisfied. When you want to leave earlier you have to prepare mentally and want it yourself, because when you don’t want and they choose you to go, you feel rejected. When you’re young and you begin working years pass by quickly you don’t even count it. At one moment when you look around, when the kids are grown, the grandchildren appear, man looks back and sees that it’s all passed so quickly and then a man starts to check his conscience, think how it’s been, what it’s been, whether he’s satisfied or not.
In my case there haven’t been any big problems, even after being fired in 1997. It lasted only for a month and then as one of the first employees I was given my job back again. At that time everybody was fired. Nobody knew if the shipyard would exist. At that time I was arranging another job in my profession.
I found other places in case it didn’t work out with the shipyard. But everything worked out fine and the shipyard began to exist again. The direction is one, this place is one until the end, and if there’s no job you look for another opportunity.
I’m not from Gdansk, I’m from central Poland. I was raised in the countryside, I was always self-confident and a big joker. Basically I wanted to be everything. I came here one day to see the sea and I ended up in the shipyard. Before I came here I hadn’t even imagined how it all might look. Now the shipyard is like my family. I went through almost all of its history, I took part in demonstrations. I didn’t play any important part in the strikes. When the strike was to begin, everyone took part in it. People were really afraid back then. There was no place for plans or dreams. I am strongly connected to this place. We don’t get paid for months and yet people come to work.
I’d like to work in the shipyard till I retire, I’d like the ships to still be built here. After all there will always be someone willing to buy them.
I’m building a house for myself now, I’m moving in soon. There’s still much to be done, so that’s what I’m usually working on after work. It’s gonna be a family house – for me and my children who are already grown up. I’m often kidding, I’m a joker and my friends like me for that. As far as my dreams are concerned, I’d like to go for some holidays abroad at last. Not to work, just to go sightseeing, learn about different culture and traditions. I’d like to have that kind of peaceful retirement, to have some rest.
I’ve been working in the shipyard since 1963. When I began I was 14 years old and had my head in the clouds. I missed home and my mother. I lived with my relatives then. When I got back from winter holidays I was seized by such grief, I was crying heavily I couldn’t help it.
I didn’t think I would work for so long here. 42 years in one place. I settled down here, that’s it. A part of me is in every ship. There’s even a kind of joy when a ship comes to our shipyard to be renovated. I will miss this place for sure. When you retire you don’t know what to do with yourself, you miss this rhythm: wake up in the morning, go to work, go back.
I was attracted to the shipyard by curiosity and friends that had begun working here before. It was 1972. Before I had lived in the countryside and wanted to make Polish sport famous, wanted to play in Arka Gdynia, wanted to fix tv sets, but I wasn’t given this chance. I was a dreamer. I read „Seagulls” and felt attracted by the climate of the harbour, the sea. The shipyard gave me warmth and a chance to settle down. The shipyard was a big challenge for a young man, that’s why I decided to stay here and I don’t regret it. I was absorbed by work, by the scope of some political events, the greatness of the very workplace that was roaring from sun rise to sun set, 24h a day.
They appreciated the contribution of the young people, gave them new challenges. They encouraged you if you wanted to go to high school or university. My teachers worked hard themselves to make it easier for me to learn. I’m grateful to them to this day. Some of them are alive, some are not. They are satisfied they brought up a person who’s their superior and I have purely humane satisfaction, that they haven’t changed. I feel touched when I look at them. I chose for myself the toughest tasks and they gave me satisfaction with my hard work, also moral satisfaction as I felt that together with my friends were becoming more intellectual. Maybe we were seeing more than a person that got pigeon holed and was afraid of challenges and wanted to work in order–based system only. Back then, life didn’t compel you to be self-reliant. Now when it does, people who were afraid to take risks feel lost. They didn’t take their chance and it got lost somewhere.
I was 22 when I began working in the shipyard. I come from the outskirts of Gdansk. At first I would travel by train, it was at 3.45 AM. I attended an evening school and I graduated, I completed a master craftsman course as well. My colleagues were coming from Pelplin, from all over Kaszuby, by train, by bus. People slept on trains. When I began going to school I learnt how to sleep on a train. I would lean against a wall or someone next to me and doze off.
I travelled like that for a few months. Eventually I got a room in Gdansk. In those days the shipyard cared for each worker, gave him accommodation. People were directed to flats or to workers hotels. The shipyard employed everyone. Unskilled people, former prisoners. Lads were from the villages from the middle of Poland, from voivodeship of radomskie, kieleckie, lubelskie. They were coming with one suitcase or sometimes with no suitcase at all. After a few years they had flats, got houses, found their wives here. You can say they found a second home here. People spent most of their time in the shipyard. I worked about 350 hours each month. So if you divide it, it’s 12 hours a day, weekends included. People that worked in one team knew everything about each other, unless someone was hiding away, but this was an exception. We knew who had children and how many, who had a lover and where, who drank his money away. Nobody was hiding that – well, it just happened. We were friends, we knew each other. We went out for a beer or vodka together, some people were even meeting on a private basis. We keep in touch to this day. It’s distinctive that when we meet, we go „hi, hi, how are you, who’s died recently?” People that haven’t been working in the shipyards for 20 years still attend funerals. It’s kind of a mental duty among the shipyard workers. Even the people that have been out of the shipyard for years, retired, on pension come as well. They maintain this bond.
The happiest moments in the shipyard were the ships launching. Especially the side ones, maybe because it’s so spectacular. But also there was this feeling that the outcome of our labour is slipping into the water and not drowning. There was a big satisfaction about it. I was happy when we managed to finish some task even if we’d had to work hard over the day. We’re so attached, I don’t know if it’s history or the system that taught us this. We’re not working here out of financial calculation. Only to do your job, get the money and bye, bye. No! We were coming, I remember, sometimes there could be no more hour limit for a given job and we were coming just to finish it. Despite the fact that we didn’t know if our boss sorted extra hours for the job or not. I worked in the shipyard for 15 years. And now even though I haven’t worked for 9 years, when I’m in some other shipyard I keep saying „In our shipyard…”. Then
I correct myself, that it’s not my shipyard anymore. Now I work for the shipyard. I’m a subcontractor but I’m still sentimental about this place, I feel best here. That’s what I feel but I can see that the others feel similar. I guess it’s our national, slavic tradition. That’s the way we are.
I work in a 40 person team. I know their problems, their families I know the way they come to work and I know they can really make miracles if they’re sure they will get decent money for the job, the money that was contracted. They don’t demand miracles. People are normal, sometimes they would like to boast of their job, because the managers have often no time to talk to everybody, especially about things not referring to work speed or deadlines.
Every stage of my life was accompanied by work, probably when I retire nostalgia and grief will come. When I’m on a walk in Gdansk and I will see the cranes I will remember my own history. When I hear the seagulls they will tell me that I left a bit of my own invention here. When I meet the people I used to work with we will respect each other. Because at this moment we usually meet on sad occasions like funerals. Everybody shows up there as if on a last duty, on a last meeting. And it’s very elevating. These celebrations always strengthen our respect for ourselves, for life, for passing time.