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  • Writer's pictureDamian Brzeski

Sołdek - The first ship built in Poland

In the heart of Gdańsk, right next to the Motława River, there is a unique place that is a testimony to the Polish shipbuilding industry and dreams of a great navy. We are talking about the museum ship "Sołdek" - the first ship built in Poland after World War II.


Its history is a story of the rebirth, determination and development of Polish shipyard workers who, on the ruins of war destruction, raised the Polish maritime economy. "Sołdek" is not just a ship; is a monument of Polish history that, over the years of its service, crossed the seas and oceans, transporting cargo around the world, to finally earn the title of an extraordinary tourist and educational attraction.


In this article, we will tell you about its history, from the moment of launching, through decades of work at sea, to its current life as a museum ship that delights subsequent generations of tourists visiting Gdańsk.



SS Sołdek moored on Ołowianka Island

The history of the "SS Sołdek" ship - From construction to the end of its career


The "SS Sołdek" ship is a unique symbol of Polish post-war reconstruction and development. As the first ship built in Poland after World War II, Sołdek was not only an engineering feat, but also a symbol of the nation's hope and entrepreneurial spirit.


Built in the Gdańsk Shipyard, then called the Shipyard. Lenin, its launching in 1948 was a historic moment, opening the way for Poland to become one of the leading players in the global shipbuilding industry.


"SS Sołdek", the first seagoing ship built by the Polish shipbuilding industry, is a living witness to the determination and skills of Polish designers and shipbuilders. The ship's design was created thanks to the work of a team led by M.Sc. Eng. Henryk Giełdzik .


It is worth emphasizing the international nature of this project, because the workshop documentation was prepared by the French shipyard Augustin Normand in Le Havre . The construction itself, which began in the newly established Gdańsk Shipyard on October 19, 1947, was supervised by Eng. Jerzy Doerffer, later professor and rector of the Gdańsk University of Technology.


The ceremony of laying the keel of the B-30 type ore coal carrier, which took place on April 3, 1948, was honored by the presence of important figures, including the Minister of Shipping, Adam Rapacki. The symbolic driving of the first rivet into the structural elements initiated the construction process, during which an average of 45 tons of ship steel elements were assembled per week.


Use of approximately 300 thousand rivets, constituting approximately 6% of the weight of the entire hull , emphasizes the complexity and meticulousness of this project.


The launch of the ship on November 6, 1948 was an emotional moment. It was named "Sołdek" in honor of the leading shipyard worker, Stanisław Sołdek, who completed 206% of the norm, with his godmother Helena Sołdek at his side. These symbolic gestures emphasize the ship's deep roots in the local community and history.


Under the command of Zbigniew Rybiański, captain of the great shipping, "Sołdek" set off on its first cruise to Szczecin on October 22, 1949, where a few days later, on October 25, the ceremonial flag-raising took place.


During its 31-year service, "Sołdek" made 1,479 sea voyages, transporting over 3.5 million tons of cargo and calling at over 60 ports around the world. Its activities were not limited only to the transport of goods; he also witnessed many important moments in the history of Poland and the world, being not only an ambassador of the Polish shipbuilding industry, but also a participant in global maritime trade.


The end of "Sołdek's" career in 1981 did not mean the end of his journey. The ship, which witnessed the changes and development of the Polish maritime economy, was transformed into a museum.


Today, as a museum ship, "Sołdek" continues to tell its story to subsequent generations, reminding us of the rich heritage and achievements of the Polish shipbuilding industry.


Sołdek being launched

Who was the leader of work in the times of the Polish People's Republic?


The ship standing today in front of the Gdańsk crane owes its name to one of the workers at the then Gdańsk Shipyard. Lenin.


Today, it is unheard of for such a unique machine or place to have the name of an employee who participated in its construction.


However, you must remember that Stanisław Sołdek worked at a time when the Gdańsk Shipyard was part of the communist machine of the Polish People's Republic.


So who was the titular "Forerunner of Work"?


Work leader during communism was a title and form of distinction for employees achieving exceptionally high results at work, primarily in the Eastern Bloc countries, including Poland.


This title was part of a broader incentive system in the planned economy, where central economic planning required not only discipline, but also incentives for employees to increase production efficiency.


Labor leaders were promoted as role models, people with exceptional work ethic, commitment and loyalty to the socialist state. Achieving leadership status often came with additional benefits, such as financial bonuses, accolades, privileged access to goods and services, and sometimes career advancement.


The idea of labor leadership was not only to reward individuals, but also to stimulate the collective to higher productivity and commitment to achieving the country's economic goals.


This title also had strong propaganda connotations, promoting socialist and communist ideology, according to which every citizen was to contribute to building a strong, socialist state.


Work leaders were often propaganda heroes, shown in the media, literature and art as examples for other workers.


SS Sołdek at work

"Sołdek" as a museum ship


The transformation of "Sołdek" into a museum is another chapter in its rich history. Thanks to this initiative, the ship not only avoided the fate of scrapping, but became a valuable cultural and educational resource, offering unique insights into the Polish maritime and shipbuilding industry.


The museum ship "Sołdek" moored at the quay of Ołowianka Island in Gdańsk is an integral part of the National Maritime Museum.


This is the first museum of this type in Poland, which allows visitors to directly experience life on a ship, explore its interior and understand how the Polish shipyard and merchant navy operated in its heyday.


When visiting the museum ship moored at the Motława River, you can visit both the crew rooms, the engine room and the holds, where exhibitions on shipbuilding technology, the history of navigation and the ship itself are presented.


Every aspect of the ship, from the captain's bridge to the lowest decks, has been carefully preserved or recreated to provide the most accurate depiction of life at sea.


The Maritime Museum also organizes various temporary exhibitions and educational programs addressed to various age groups, including school ones.


Thanks to these activities, "Sołdek" serves not only as a historical souvenir, but also as an educational tool, inspiring younger generations to explore knowledge of maritime history and technology.


As a museum ship, "Sołdek" plays a key role in promoting Poland's maritime heritage. It is a symbol of perseverance, innovation and success of the Polish shipbuilding industry.


Its presence and continued availability to the public are a reminder of the important role that Polish shipping and shipyards played not only in the national economy, but also in the international arena.


While on board, visitors have a unique opportunity to look into the past and understand what the lives of sailors were like, as well as appreciate the contribution of Polish shipbuilders to the development of world shipping. "Sołdek" remains a living history lesson, attracting both residents and tourists from all over the world.

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