Karol Wojtyla – who as John Paul II would become Bishop of Rome and saint – was born 100 years ago on 18 May 1920. Poland’s ambassador to the United Kingdom welcomes the rediscovery during the current pandemic of one of his guiding ideas
In the past few weeks, like most of us, I have been closely following the development of the Covid-19 crisis. And in the middle of the anxiety and sadness it came as a pleasant surprise to see the return of an almost forgotten word that has always meant much to us Poles. The word is “solidarity” (solidarnosc in Polish).
“We are learning the lesson that there is no substitute for solidarity,” an editorial in The Tablet noted on 14 March, as social distancing measures were being introduced in the UK. The piece spoke of the sustained commitment to human dignity and the common good, collectively and individually, that would be necessary to overcome the pandemic. The word was picked up elsewhere in the media in the following weeks, as the lockdown was imposed, in articles that again spoke of solidarity in its social context, about the need to re-evaluate our understanding of human capital and the labour market.
With most of society and the economy in self-isolation, we have grown in our appreciation of key workers, the medical staff and social carers working on the front line of this crisis, but also of the shop assistants, the IT engineers, the waste collectors and bus drivers, and all those who have been keeping essential services going. The call for “solidarity” is a recognition that we need a radical re-evaluation of professions that have long been undervalued or ignored.