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‘89 Transformation Archive | NINATEKA Collection

The ‘89 Transformation Archive is a unique multimedia story about the Polish Round Table Talks.

It is a collection of archival films that document the events, while also conveying the atmosphere surrounding the negotiation marathon. Video Studio Gdańsk camera crews roamed the corridors and the Column Hall of the Presidential Palace. As Solidarity negotiators emerged from the conference rooms, producers approached them for comment, recorded interviews, and listened in as representatives of both sides of the debate made statements to state media outlets.

The camera also captured behind-the-scenes talks, emotional exchanges over developments in the negotiation strategy, personal comments, jokes and anecdotes told by opposition members. We are shown high ranking officials of the Polish People’s Republic alongside many politicians who remain active today, including Leszek Miller, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Jarosław Kaczyński and other public figures such as Jan Dworak, Henryk Wujec and Adam Michnik.


Interview with Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who was later elected President of Poland.

The Role of the Media

The captured footage also provokes reflection on the role of audiovisual media in the Round Table Talks. It illustrates just how important every minute of daily news coverage was to the negotiators on the Solidarity side. Representatives made a point of appearing in front of cameras with a Solidarity pin in their lapels, on their sweaters and on their briefcases. 


W nagraniu Adam Michnik przekomarza się z redaktorem TVP w sprawie długości nakręconej chwilę wcześniej wypowiedzi.

Sweaters, Thermoses and Polish Cars

The contents of the collection offer a glimpse of the atmosphere and customs of the time. The footage of ubiquitous cigarette smoke makes it almost possible for the viewer to smell the scent that hung in the air throughout the entire Presidential Palace. The late 1980s ambiance is reinforced by the clothing worn by the negotiators and the objects they use, such as large red telephones and red and blue thermoses filled with tea and coffee. The films also convey the mood of contemporary streets, full of locally manufactured cars like the FSO Polonez and the Fiat 125p and 126. 


Varsovians welcome a group of opposition members arriving for the opening of the Round Table Talks.

Each video in the collection is accompanied by a caption that explains the context of recorded statements and situations. Filters such as “Strategy discussions” and “Negotiation crises” help users navigate the archive, which can also be browsed by the names of key figures on both the opposition and government sides of the talks. The Round Table Glossary includes a list of specific terms associated with the talks.

See also