In a tragic loss for the movement for democratic rights, Anna Walentynowicz, whose sacking by a Polish shipyard in August 1980 sparked the formation of Polish Solidarity was among the dead in the plane crash in Russia today.
Solidarity was perhaps the most important example of the power of a democratic workers movement in recent memory. Its strike wave and organizing led eventually to the downfall of the Polish Stalinist regime and, in turn, helped lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Walentynowicz was one of the great heorines of the 20th century who never lost her fierce independent streak. She was never afraid to speak up even to the top leadership of her own movement.
UPDATE: The Times has now run a much deserved obituary for Ms. Walentynowicz here.