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Thatcher Gets Tumultuous Welcome In Gdansk

November 4, 1988

GDANSK, Poland (AP) _ To cheers of support from thousands of workers, Margaret Thatcher and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa laid a wreath today outside the Lenin Shipyard to honor Poles slain during 1970 riots.

Shipyard workers in hard hats, their hands raised in V-for-victory salutes, chanted ″Solidarity 3/8 Solidarity 3/8″ as the British prime minister and Walesa placed the flowers at a towering monument near the shipyard.

The monument honors dozens of Polish workers who died when security forces opened fire to quell riots over food prices.

Mrs. Thatcher is the first Western leader to meet Walesa at the shipyard, where Solidarity began eight years ago.

Polish media have been giving heavy coverage to Mrs. Thatcher’s visit but have been omitting references to her ″private program″ - the code for her visits with Solidarity supporters.

However, newspapers today did print the full text of her rather sharply worded dinner speech Thursday calling for dialogue with Solidarity.

A crowd estimated at 20,000 thronged the square around the monument and shouted, ″Down with communism 3/8″ and ″Out with Rakowski 3/8″ Prime Minister Mieczyslaw F. Rakowski has ordered the shipyard closed for financial reasons.

″Mrs. Thatcher Don’t Let the Shipyard be Closed,″ read one sign.

″See how many have come despite their efforts to stop them? They have filtered through somehow,″ Walesa told reporters. ″We will not be defeated. This is a monument of hope.″

Mrs. Thatcher periodically disappeared into the crowd. There was no sign of communist government officials nor of Polish security police who have followed her throughout most of her three-day visit.

The trip to the shipyard, which the government plans to close Dec. 1, was the high point of Mrs. Thatcher’s visit, which ended today. The British leader has publicly endorsed the banned Solidarity trade union federation.

After the wreath-laying, Mrs. Thatcher visited St. Brygida’s church, where she had lunch in the rectory with Solidarity leaders.

Mrs. Thatcher thanked the crowd for its reception. ″I had to come here and see for myself the spirit of the Polish people,″ she said.

After meeting with Mrs. Thatcher, Walesa said, ″I am very satisfied. We discussed all the problems that the prime minister wanted to hear about and we wanted to raise.″

Earlier, crowds lined the British leader’s route, pressing flowers into her hands while she toured the Old Town and Gdansk’s reconstructed Long Market, whose ornate architecture reflects the city’s wealthy past at the major Baltic seaport of the 16th century.

Mrs. Thatcher was greeted by city authorities when she arrived by plane from Warsaw. She then departed for a ceremony where she joined the country’s leader, Wojciech Jaruzelski, to honor Polish defenders of the Westerplatte penisula, scene of the first shots of World War II.

She dedicated a monument in the city’s eastern Praga district to British flyers who died trying to ferry food and weapons to the Polish-resistanc e movement in the failed Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The rebellion against the Nazi occupiers cost 200,000 Polish lives.

On Thursday evening, Mrs. Thatcher told communist leaders they must negotiate with Solidarity as the price for long-term Western aid, including the rescheduling of a $39 billion foreign debt.

Solidarity leaders today praised her for that.

″It was beautiful what she said,″ senior Solidarity adviser Bronislaw Geremek said in an interview. ″For this speech, Mrs. Thatcher gets a great deal of thanks from us.″

Mrs. Thatcher said it was ″vital there should be a real dialogue with representatives of all sections of society, including Solidarity.″

″You will find your friends ready, not just to stand and cheer, but to help in practical ways,″ she said.

Gen. Jaruzelski, in a guarded speech, complained Poland ″suffered much″ from Western embargoes after the government’s 1981 declaration of martial law and outlawing the following year of Solidarity.

He hinted he resented carping from wealthy Western countries that have not shared the long history of foreign invasions and economic straits endured by Poland.

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