Lech Wałęsa (Polish: [ˈlɛɣ vaˈwɛ̃sa] (listen); born 29 September 1943) is a Polish retired politician and labour activist. He co-founded and headed Solidarity (Solidarność), the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.
While working at the Lenin Shipyard (now Gdańsk Shipyard), Wałęsa, an electrician, became a trade-union activist, for which he was persecuted by the Communist authorities, placed under surveillance, fired in 1976, and arrested several times. In August 1980 he was instrumental in political negotiations that led to the ground-breaking Gdańsk Agreement between striking workers and the government. He co-founded the Solidarity trade-union movement.
After martial law was imposed in Poland and Solidarity was outlawed, Wałęsa was again arrested. Released from custody, he continued his activism and was prominent in the establishment of the 1989 Round Table Agreement that led to semi-free parliamentary elections in June 1989 and to a Solidarity-led government.
In the Polish general election of 1990, Wałęsa successfully ran for the newly re-established office of President of Poland. He presided over Poland's transition from communism to a post-communist state, but his popularity waned and his role in Polish politics diminished after he narrowly lost the 1995 presidential election.
Since the fall of Communism in Poland, there have been allegations that Wałęsa had collaborated with the earlier communist secret police. In 2017 a lengthy investigation by the Institute of National Remembrance concluded that a handwriting study proved the authenticity of documents showing that Wałęsa had agreed to collaborate with the communist secret police.
Since the death of Wojciech Jaruzelski in 2014, Wałęsa is the oldest living former Polish president at age 75.
Wałęsa in 2009
|2nd President of Poland|
22 December 1990 – 22 December 1995
|Prime Minister||Tadeusz Mazowiecki|
Jan Krzysztof Bielecki
|Preceded by||Wojciech Jaruzelski (de facto) |
Ryszard Kaczorowski (as last Polish President-in-exile)
|Succeeded by||Aleksander Kwaśniewski|
|Chairperson of Solidarity|
14 August 1980 – 12 December 1990
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Marian Krzaklewski|
|Born||29 September 1943|
Popowo, Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, Greater German Reich (today in Poland)
|Political party||Civic Platform (2001–present)|
Solidarity Citizens' Committee (1988–1993)
Nonpartisan Bloc for Support of Reforms (1993–1997)
Solidarity Electoral Action (1997–2001)
Christian Democracy of the 3rd Polish Republic (1997–2001)
Mirosława Danuta Gołoś (m. 1969)
|Children||Bogdan, Sławomir, Przemysław, Jarosław, Magdalena, Anna, Maria Wiktoria and Brygida Wałęsa|
Wałęsa was born in Popowo, Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia, Germany (German-occupied Poland). His father, Bolesław Wałęsa (1908–1945), was a carpenter who was rounded up and interned in a forced labour camp at Młyniec (outpost of KL Stutthof) by the German occupying forces before Lech was born.[note 1] Bolesław returned home after the war but died two months later from exhaustion and illness. Lech's mother, Feliksa Wałęsa (née Kamieńska; 1916–1975), has been credited with shaping her son's beliefs and tenacity.
When Lech was nine, Feliksa married her brother-in-law, Stanisław Wałęsa (1916–1981), a farmer. Lech had three elder full siblings; Izabela (1934–2012),[note 2] Edward (b. 1937), and Stanisław (b. 1939); and three younger half-brothers; Tadeusz (b. 1946), Zygmunt (b. 1948), and Wojciech (1951–1988). In 1973, Lech's mother and stepfather emigrated to the US for economic reasons. They lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, where Feliksa died in a car accident in 1975, and Stanisław died of a heart attack in 1981. Both of them were buried in Poland.
In 1961, Lech graduated from primary and vocational school in nearby Chalin and Lipno as a qualified electrician. He worked as a car mechanic from 1961 to 1965, and then embarked on his two-year, obligatory military service, attaining the rank of corporal before beginning work on 12 July 1967 as an electrician at Lenin Shipyard (Stocznia Gdańska im. Lenina), now called Gdańsk Shipyard (Stocznia Gdańska) in Gdańsk.
On 8 November 1969, Wałęsa married Mirosława Danuta Gołoś, who worked at a flower shop near the Lenin Shipyard. Soon after they married, she began using her middle name more often than her first name, per Lech's request. The couple had eight children; Bogdan (b. 1970), Sławomir (b. 1972), Przemysław (1974–2017), Jarosław (b. 1976), Magdalena (b. 1979), Anna (b. 1980), Maria-Wiktoria (b. 1982), and Brygida (b. 1985). As of 2016, Anna is running her father's office in Gdańsk and Jarosław is a European MP.
From early in his career, Wałęsa was interested in workers' concerns; in 1968 he encouraged shipyard colleagues to boycott official rallies that condemned recent student strikes. He was a charismatic leader, who helped organize the illegal 1970 protests at the Gdańsk Shipyard when workers protested the government's decree raising food prices and he was considered for the position of chairman of the strike committee. The strikes' outcome, which involved the deaths of over 30 workers, galvanized Wałęsa's views on the need for change. In June 1976, Wałęsa lost his job at the Gdańsk Shipyard because of his continued involvement in illegal unions, strikes, and a campaign to commemorate the victims of the 1970 protests. Afterwards he worked as an electrician for several other companies but his activism led to him continually being laid off and he was jobless for long periods. Wałęsa and his family were under constant surveillance by the Polish secret police; his home and workplace were always bugged. Over the next few years, he was arrested several times for participating in dissident activities.
Wałęsa worked closely with the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR), a group that emerged to lend aid to people arrested after the 1976 labor strikes and to their families. In June 1978 he became an activist of the underground Free Trade Unions of the Coast (Wolne Związki Zawodowe Wybrzeża). On 14 August 1980, another rise in food prices led to a strike at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, of which Wałęsa was one of the instigators. Wałęsa climbed over the shipyard fence and quickly became one of the strike leaders. The strike inspired other similar strikes in Gdańsk, which then spread across Poland. Wałęsa headed the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee, coordinating the workers at Gdańsk and at 20 other plants in the region. On 31 August the government, represented by Mieczysław Jagielski, signed an accord (the Gdańsk Agreement) with the Strike Coordinating Committee. The agreement granted the Lenin Shipyard workers the right to strike and permitted them to form an independent trade union. The Strike Coordinating Committee legalized itself as the National Coordinating Committee of the Solidarność (Solidarity) Free Trade Union, and Wałęsa was chosen as chairman of the Committee. The Solidarity trade union quickly grew, ultimately claiming over 10 million members—more than a quarter of Poland's population. Wałęsa's role in the strike, in the negotiations, and in the newly formed independent trade union gained him fame on the international stage.
On March 10, 1981, through the introduction of his former superior in the army, Wałęsa met Jaruzelski for the first time in the office building of the Council of Ministers for three hours. During the meeting, Jaruzelski and Wałęsa agreed that mutual trust was necessary if the problems of Poland were to be solved. Wałęsa said "It's not the case that the name of socialism is bad. Only some people spoiled the name of socialism". He also complained about and criticized the government. Jaruzelski informed Wałęsa of the coming war games of Warsaw pact from March 16 to 25, hoping he could help maintain the social order and avoid anti-Soviet remarks. Jaruzelski also reminded Wałęsa that Solidarity had used foreign funds. Wałęsa joked "We don't have to take only dollars. We can take corn, fertilizer, anything is okay. I told Mr. Kania before that I would take everything from the enemy. The more the better, until the enemy was weakened no more". 
Wałęsa held his position until 13 December 1981, when General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law in Poland. Wałęsa and many other Solidarity leaders and activists were arrested; he was incarcerated for 11 months until 14 November 1982 at Chylice, Otwock, and Arłamów; eastern towns near the Soviet border. On 8 October 1982 Solidarity was outlawed. In 1983 Wałęsa applied to return to the Gdańsk Shipyard as an electrician. The same year, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was unable to accept it himself, fearing Poland's government would not let him back into the country. His wife Danuta accepted the prize on his behalf.
Through the mid-1980s, Wałęsa continued underground Solidarity-related activities. Every issue of the leading underground weekly publication Tygodnik Mazowsze bore his motto, "Solidarity will not be divided or destroyed". Following a 1986 amnesty for Solidarity activists, Wałęsa co-founded the Provisional Council of NSZZ Solidarity (Tymczasowa Rada NSZZ Solidarność), the first overt legal Solidarity entity since the declaration of martial law. From 1987 to 1990, he organized and led the semi-illegal Provisional Executive Committee of the Solidarity Trade Union. In mid-1988 he instigated work-stoppage strikes at the Gdańsk Shipyard. He was frequently hauled in for interrogations by the Polish secret police, the Security Service (SB), during the 1980s. On many of these occasions, Danuta—who was even more anti-Communist than her husband—was known to openly taunt SB agents when they picked Lech up.
After months of strikes and political deliberations, at the conclusion of the 10th plenary session of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR, the Polish communist party), the government agreed to enter into Round Table Negotiations that lasted from February to April 1989. Wałęsa was an informal leader of the non-governmental side in the negotiations. During the talks, he traveled throughout Poland giving speeches in support of the negotiations. At the end of the talks, the government signed an agreement to re-establish the Solidarity Trade Union and to organize semi-free elections to the Polish parliament; in accordance with the Round Table Agreement, only members of the Communist Party and its allies could stand for 65 percent of the seats in the lower house, the Sejm.
In December 1988 Wałęsa co-founded the Solidarity Citizens' Committee; this was ostensibly an advisory body but in practice a political party that won the parliamentary elections in June 1989. Solidarity took all the seats in the Sejm that were subject to free elections, and all but one seat in the newly re-established Senate. Wałęsa was one of Solidarity's most public figures; he was an active campaigner, appearing on many campaign posters, but did not run for parliament himself. Solidarity winners in the Sejm elections were referred to as "Wałęsa's team" or "Lech's team" because they had all appeared on their election posters with Wałęsa.
While ostensibly only chairman of Solidarity, Wałęsa played a key role in practical politics. In August 1989, he persuaded leaders of parties formerly allied with the Communist Party to form a non-communist coalition government—the first non-Communist government in the Soviet Bloc. The parliament elected Tadeusz Mazowiecki as the first non-communist Prime Minister of Poland in over forty years.
Following the June 1989 parliamentary elections, Wałęsa was disappointed that some of his former fellow campaigners were satisfied to govern alongside former Communists. He decided to run for the newly re-established office of president, using the slogan, "I don't want to, but I have to" ("Nie chcę, ale muszę."). On 9 December 1990 Wałęsa won the presidential election, defeating Prime Minister Mazowiecki and other candidates to become Poland's first freely-elected head of state in 63 years, and the first non-Communist head of state in 45 years. In 1993 he founded his own political party, the Nonpartisan Bloc for Support of Reforms (BBWR); the grouping's Polish-language acronym echoed that of Józef Piłsudski's "Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government," of 1928–35, likewise an ostensibly non-political organization.
During his presidency, Wałęsa saw Poland through privatization and transition to a free-market economy (the Balcerowicz Plan), Poland's 1991 first completely free parliamentary elections, and a period of redefinition of the country's foreign relations. He successfully negotiated the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Poland and won a substantial reduction in foreign debts.
Wałęsa supported Poland's entry into NATO and the European Union, both of which occurred after his presidency, in 1999 and 2004, respectively. In the early 1990s he proposed the creation of a sub-regional security system called NATO bis. The concept was supported by right-wing and populist movements in Poland but garnered little support abroad; Poland's neighbors, some of which (e.g. Lithuania), had recently regained independence and tended to see the proposal as Polish neo-imperialism.
Wałęsa has been criticized for a confrontational style and for instigating "war at the top", whereby former Solidarity allies clashed with one another, causing annual changes of government. This increasingly isolated Wałęsa on the political scene. As he lost political allies, he came to be surrounded by people who were viewed by the public as incompetent and disreputable. Mudslinging during election campaigns tarnished his reputation. Some thought Wałęsa, an ex-electrician with no higher education, was too plain-spoken and too undignified for the post of president. Others thought him too erratic in his views or complained he was too authoritarian and that he sought to strengthen his own power at the expense of the Sejm. Wałęsa's national security advisor Jacek Merkel credited the shortcomings of Wałęsa's presidency to his inability to comprehend the office of the president as an institution. He was an effective union leader capable of articulating what the workers felt but as president he had difficulty delegating power or navigating bureaucracy. Wałęsa's problems were compounded by the difficult transition to a market economy; in the long run it was seen as highly successful but it lost Wałęsa's government much popular support.
Wałęsa's BBWR performed poorly in the 1993 parliamentary elections; at times his popular support dwindled to 10 percent and he narrowly lost the 1995 presidential election, winning 33.11 percent of the vote in the first round and 48.28 percent in the run-off against Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who represented the resurgent Polish post-Communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Wałęsa's fate was sealed by his poor handling of the media; in televised debates he appeared incoherent and rude; in response to Kwaśniewski's extended hand at the end of the first of the two debates, he replied that the post-Communist leader could "shake his leg". After the election Wałęsa said he was going into "political retirement" and his role in politics became increasingly marginal.
After losing the 1995 election, Wałęsa announced he would return to work as an electrician at the Gdańsk Shipyard. Soon afterwards he changed his mind and chose to travel around the world on a lecture circuit. Wałęsa developed a portfolio of three lectures ("The Impact of an Expanded NATO on Global Security", "Democracy: The Never-Ending Battle" and "Solidarity: The New Millennium"), and reads them at universities and public events with an appearance fee of around £50,000 ($70,000).
In 1995 he founded the Lech Wałęsa Institute, a think tank with a mission "to popularize the achievements of Polish Solidarity, educate young generations, promote democracy, and build civil society in Poland and around the world". In 1997 he founded a new party, Christian Democracy of the 3rd Polish Republic, hoping it would help him to successfully run in future elections.
Wałęsa's contention for the 2000 presidential election ended with a crushing defeat when he polled 1.01 percent of the vote. His humiliation was increased because Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who was re-elected in the first round with 54 percent of the vote, is a former Communist apparatchik. Wałęsa polled in seventh place, after which he announced his withdrawal from Polish politics.
In 2006 Wałęsa quit Solidarity in protest of the union's support of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, and Lech and Jarosław Kaczyński—twin brothers who had been prominent in Solidarity and were now serving as the country's president and prime minister, respectively. The main point of disagreement was the Kaczyńskis' focus on rooting out those who had been involved in communist rule and their party's attempt to make public all the files of the former communist secret police. Until then only members of the government and parliament had to declare any connection with the former security services. Wałęsa and his supporters argued the so-called transparency legislation advocated by the government might turn into a witch hunt and the more than 500,000 Poles who had possibly collaborated with the communist secret police could face exposure.
Despite waning popularity at home, Wałęsa's international reputation remained untouched. He continued his lecture circuit around the world, occasionally appearing in headlines. In 2014 in a widely publicized interview, Wałęsa expressed his disappointment in another Nobel laureate, US president Barack Obama: he told CNN, "When he was elected there was great hope in the world. We were hoping that Obama would reclaim moral leadership for America, but that failed ... in terms of politics and morality America no longer leads the world". Wałęsa also accused Obama of not deserving his Nobel Peace Prize; during the 2012 US presidential campaign he endorsed Obama's opponent Mitt Romney. In September 2015, Wałęsa again hit the headlines after sharing his thoughts on the migrant crisis in Europe with media, saying, "watching the refugees on television, I noticed that ... they are well fed, well dressed and maybe even are richer than we are ... If Europe opens its gates, soon millions will come through and while living among us will start exercising their own customs, including beheading".
Since the early 1980s there have been allegations that in the 1970s Wałęsa had served as an informant for the Polish Security Services. Wałęsa vehemently denied the allegations, and in 2000 a special court cleared him of the alleged collaboration.
The controversy resurfaced in 2008 with the publication of a book that purported to show that Wałęsa, codenamed Bolek, had been an operative for the security services from 1970 to 1976.
The question resurfaced again in February 2016, when the Institute of National Remembrance seized materials from the widow of Czesław Kiszczak, a former minister of the interior, that were said to document Wałęsa's role as a spy for the security services.
On 12 August 2000, Wałęsa, who was running a presidential campaign at the time, was cleared by the special Lustration Court of charges that he collaborated with the Communist-era secret services and reported on the activities of his fellow shipyard workers, due to the lack of evidence. Anti-communists Piotr Naimski, one of the first members of the Workers' Defense Committee that led to the Solidarity trade union, and Antoni Macierewicz, Wałęsa's former Interior Minister, testified against him in the closed vetting trial. Naimski, who said he testified with a "heavy heart", expressed his disappointment that Wałęsa "made a mistake by not going openly to the public, and he has missed an important chance". According to Naimski, the court cleared Wałęsa on "technical grounds" because it did not find certain original documents—many of which had been destroyed since 1989—offered sufficient proof that Wałęsa was lying.
In 1992, Naimski, as a head of the State Protection Office, started the process of screening people suspected of being Communist collaborators in Poland. In June that year he helped Antoni Macierewicz prepare a list of 64 members of the government and parliament who were named as spies in the police records; these included Wałęsa, then the Polish president. Wałęsa's name was included on the list after a wrenching internal debate about the virtues of honesty versus political discretion. In response to the publication of this list, President Wałęsa immediately engineered the fall of prime minister Jan Olszewski and the dismissal of Interior Minister Macierewicz. A parliamentary committee later concluded Wałęsa had not signed an agreement with the secret police.
A 1997 Polish law made the vetting a requirement for those seeking high public office. According to the law, it is not a crime to have collaborated, but those who deny it and are found to have lied are banned from political life for ten years. The 2000 presidential election was the first use of this law.
Despite helping Wałęsa in 2005 to receive the official status of a "victim of communist regime" from the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), this court ruling did not convince many Poles. In November 2009 Wałęsa sued the president of Poland, Lech Kaczyński over his repeated collaboration allegations. Five months later, Kaczyński failed to invite Wałęsa to the commemoration service at Katyn, which almost certainly saved Wałęsa's life because the presidential plane crashed, killing all on board. In August 2010, Wałęsa lost a libel case against Krzysztof Wyszkowski, his former fellow activist, who also publicly accused Wałęsa of being a communist agent in 1970s.
The most comprehensive analysis of Wałęsa's possible collaboration with secret police was provided in a 2008 book The SB (Służba Bezpieczeństwa; secret police) and Lech Wałęsa: A Biographical Contribution (SB a Lech Wałęsa. Przyczynek do biografii). The book was written by two historians from the Institute of National Remembrance, Sławomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, and included documents from the archives of the secret police that were inherited by the Institute. Among the documents were registration cards, memos, notes from the secret police, and reports from the informant.
The book's authors said Wałęsa, working under the code name Bolek,[note 3] was a secret police informant from 1970 (after he was released from the arrest) till 1976 (before he was fired from the shipyard). According to them, "he wrote reports and informed on more than 20 people and some of them were persecuted by the communist police. He identified people and eavesdropped on his colleagues at work while they were listening to Radio Free Europe for example". The book describes the fate of the seven of his alleged victims; information regarding others was destroyed or stolen from the files. According to them, Wałęsa received over 13,000 zlotys as remuneration for his services from the SB, while the monthly salary at the time was about 3,500 zlotys.[note 4] The authors said oppositionist activity in Poland in the first half of 1970s was minimal and Wałęsa's role in it was quite marginal. However, according to the book, despite formally renouncing his ties with SB in 1976, Wałęsa went on to have contacts with communist officials.
The book also said that during his 1990–1995 presidency, Wałęsa used his office to destroy the evidence of his collaboration with secret police by removing incriminating documents from the archives. According to the book, historians discovered that with the help of the state intelligence agency, Wałęsa, Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski, and other members of Wałęsa's administration, had borrowed from the archives the secret police files that had connections to Wałęsa, and returned them with key pages removed. When it was discovered at the turn of 1995/96, the following prosecutorial inquiry was discontinued for political reasons despite the case attracting much public attention.
Sławomir Cenckiewicz also said that in 1983, when Wałęsa was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the secret police tried to embarrass him and leaked information about Wałęsa's previous collaboration with the government. By this time though, Wałęsa was already so popular that most Poles did not believe the official media and dismissed the allegations as a manipulation by the Communist authorities. The book's first print run sold out in Poland within hours. The book received substantial coverage in the media, provoked nationwide debate, and was noted by the international press. Wałęsa vowed to sue the authors but never did.
On 18 February 2016, the INR in Warsaw announced it had seized a package of original documents that allegedly proved Wałęsa was a paid Polish Security Service informant. The documents dated from the period 1970–1976; they were seized from the home of a recently deceased former interior minister, General Czesław Kiszczak. The documents' authenticity was confirmed by an archival expert, but the prosecutors demanded a handwriting examination. Eventually, the requested examination concluded that the documents were authentic and, hence, Wałęsa had collaborated with the communist secret police.
The dossier consists of two folders. The first is a "personal file" containing 90 pages of documents, including a handwritten commitment to cooperate with Polish Security Service dated 21 December 1970, and signed Lech Wałęsa – Bolek with a pledge he would never admit his collaboration with secret police "not even to family"; the file also contains the confirmations of having received funds. The second is a "work file" which contains 279 pages of documents, including numerous reports by Bolek on his co-workers at Gdańsk Shipyard, and notes by Security Service officers from meetings with him. According to one note, Wałęsa agreed to collaborate out of fear of persecution after the workers' protest in 1970. The documents also show that at first Bolek eagerly provided information on opinions and actions by his co-workers and took money for the information, but his enthusiasm diminished and the quality of his information decreased until he was deemed no longer valuable and collaboration with him was terminated in 1976.
The sealed dossier also contained a letter, hand-written by Kiszczak in April 1996, in which he informs the Director of the Polish Central Archives of Modern Records (Archiwum Akt Nowych) about the accompanying files documenting the collaboration of Wałęsa with the Polish Security Service and asks him not to publish this information until five years after Wałęsa's death. In his letter Kiszczak said he kept the documents out of reach: before the 1989 revolution, trying to protect Wałęsa's reputation; and afterwards to make sure they did not disappear or were used for political reasons. This letter and the accompanying documents had never been sent.
On 16 February 2016, about three months after Kiszczak's death, his widow Maria approached the Institute of National Remembrance and offered to sell the documents to the archives for 90,000 zlotys ($23,000). However, according to Polish law, all documents of the political police must be handed in to the state. The administration of the institute notified the prosecutor's office, which conducted a police search of the Kiszczak's house and seized all the historic documents. Maria Kiszczak later said she had not read her husband's letter and had "made a mistake".
For years Wałęsa vehemently denied collaborating with the Polish Security Service and dismissed the incriminating files as forgeries created by the SB to compromise him. Wałęsa also denies that during his presidency he removed documents incriminating him from the archives. Until 2008 he denied having ever seen his Security Service file. After the publication of the book SB a Lech Wałęsa in 2008, he said that while he was president "I did borrow the file, but didn't remove anything from it. I saw there were some documents there about me and that they were clearly forgeries. I told my secretaries to tape up and seal the file. I wrote 'don't open' on it. But someone didn't obey, removed the papers, now casting suspicion on me." Wałęsa's interior minister Andrzej Milczanowski denied the cover-up and said he "had full legal rights to make those documents available to President Wałęsa" and that "no original documents were removed from the file", which contained only photocopies.
Wałęsa has offered conflicting statements regarding the authenticity of the documents. Initially he appeared to come close to an admission, saying in 1992, "in December 1970, I signed three or four documents" to escape from the secret police. In his 1987 autobiography A Way of Hope, Wałęsa said, "It is also the truth that I had not left that clash completely pure. They gave me a condition: sign! And then I signed." He denied he acted upon the collaboration agreement. However, in his later years Wałęsa said all the documents are forgeries and told the BBC in 2008, "you will not find any signature of mine agreeing to collaborate anywhere".
In 2009, after the publication of another biography connecting him with the secret police (Lech Wałęsa: Idea and History by Pawel Zyzak), Wałęsa threatened to leave Poland if historians continue to question his past. He said that before revealing such information "a historian must decide whether this serves Poland". After the accusations against him resurfaced with the discovery of the Kiszczak dossier on 16 February 2016, Wałęsa called the files "lies, slander and forgeries", and said he "never took money and never made any spoken or written report on anyone". He said of the Polish public, which was about to believe in the allegations, "you have betrayed me, not me you" and "it was I who safely led Poland to a complete victory over communism". On 20 February 2016, Wałęsa wrote in his blog that a secret police officer had begged him to sign the financial documents in the 1970s because the officer had lost money entrusted to him to purchase a vehicle. Wałęsa appealed to the officer to step forward and clear him of the accusations.
Wałęsa is a devout Roman Catholic. He is a staunch opponent of abortion; in 1993 during his presidency he signed a law restricting abortions in Poland. This law reversed the virtually free access to abortion that existed since 1956 and limited its use to cases in which the woman's life is in danger, pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest, or the fetus is irreparably damaged. Doctors who violate the rules now face up to two years in prison. This abortion law is one of the most restrictive in Europe, deeply divided the country, and saw the former Solidarity coalition split between liberals and conservatives. The Polish Catholic Church supported Wałęsa, but public opinion polls indicated most Poles favored retaining a liberal abortion law; 1.3 million Poles signed a petition demanding a plebiscite rather than governmental imposition of the law. In 1994 a group of women legislators tried to ease the criteria for abortion; Wałęsa vetoed their amendment.
In 2013, Wałęsa suggested the creation of a political union between Poland and Germany.
Wałęsa is well known for his anti-gay position. In 2013 he said on Polish television that homosexual people have no right to a prominent role in politics, "They have to know that they are a minority and must adjust to smaller things". He also said homosexual MPs should sit "behind a wall" in a parliament. Despite sharp international criticism and a legal complaint of "propaganda of hate against a sexual minority", Wałęsa refused to apologize for his comments. At a political rally in 2000, he described gay people as "sick" and said, "I believe those people need medical treatment". During the drawing up of a new Polish Constitution in 1995, President Wałęsa argued against the inclusion of gay rights provisions. In 2014 City authorities of San Francisco renamed Walesa Street because of his "anti-gay remarks". A deputy speaker of the Polish Parliament said Wałęsa's anti-gay position could jeopardize his international career as a human rights speaker.
In 1983, Wałęsa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then he has received more than 30 state decorations and more than 50 awards from 30 countries, including Order of the Bath (UK), Order of Merit (Germany), Legion of Honour (France) and European Human Rights Prize (EU 1989). In 2011, he declined to accept the Lithuanian highest order, citing his displeasure at Lithuania's policy towards the Polish diaspora. In 2008, he established the Lech Wałęsa Award.
In 2004, Gdańsk International Airport was officially renamed Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport and Wałęsa's signature was incorporated into the airport's logo. A college hall in Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago), six streets, and five schools in Canada, France, Sweden and Poland also were named after Lech Wałęsa
Wałęsa was named Man of the Year by Time magazine (1981), Financial Times (1980), Saudi Gazette (1989) and 12 other newspapers and magazines. He was awarded with over 45 honorary doctorates by universities around the world, including Harvard University and Sorbonne. He was named an honorary karate black belt by International Traditional Karate Federation. Wałęsa is also an honorary citizen of more than 30 cities, including London, Buffalo and Turin.
In the United States, Wałęsa was the first recipient of the Liberty Medal, in 1989. That year he also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and became the first non-head-of-state to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress. Wałęsa symbolically represented Europe by carrying the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics. In 2004, he represented ten newly acceded EU countries during the official accession ceremony in Strasbourg. In 1993, the heraldic authority of the Kingdom of Sweden assigned Wałęsa a personal coat of arms on the occasion of his admittance into the Royal Order of the Seraphim.
Lech Wałęsa has been portrayed, as himself or a character based on him, in a number of feature and television films. The two most notable of them are:
Both of these films were produced in Poland. In December 1989, Warner Bros. intended to produce a "major" movie about Wałęsa, to be made in 1990 and released in 1991. The company paid Wałęsa a $1 million fee for the rights to produce a biopic. Although the movie was never made, this payment sparked controversy in Poland when five years later it emerged that Wałęsa concealed this income to avoid paying taxes on it. The Gdańsk tax office initiated a tax fraud case against Wałęsa but it was later dismissed because the five-year statute of limitations had already run out.
In 1982, Bono was inspired by Wałęsa to write U2's first hit single, "New Year's Day". Coincidentally, the Polish authorities lifted martial law on 1 January 1983, the same day this single was released. Wałęsa also became a hero of a number of Polish pop songs, including a satirical 1991 hit titled Nie wierzcie elektrykom (Don't Trust the Electricians) from the second studio album by the punk rock band Big Cyc which featured a caricature of Wałęsa on its cover.
Sid Meier's Civilization V video game lists Lech Wałęsa amongst its world leader rankings. Wałęsa is ranked 11th on a scale of 1 to 21, with Augustus Caesar ranked as the best world leader of all time and Dan Quayle as the worst. Wałęsa is immediately outranked by Simon Bolivar and is ranked just above Ivan the Terrible. Lech Wałęsa ranks 9th out of 21 in Sid Meier's Civilization VI, immediately outranked by Marcus Aurelius and ranked just above Hatshepsut.
Presidential elections were held in Poland on 25 November 1990, with a second round on 9 December. They were the first direct presidential elections in the history of Poland, and the first free presidential elections since the May Coup of 1926. Before World War II, presidents were elected by the Sejm. From 1952 to 1989—the bulk of the Communist era—the presidency did not exist as a separate institution, and most of its functions were fulfilled by the State Council of Poland, whose chairman was considered the equivalent of a president.
The leader of the Solidarity movement, Lech Wałęsa, won the first round. However, he did not earn over 50% of the vote, which led to a runoff election. Wałęsa faced Polish-Canadian businessman Stanisław Tymiński in the second round, defeating him easily.1995 Polish presidential election
Presidential elections were held in Poland on 5 November 1995, with a second round on 19 November. Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Lech Wałęsa passed to the second round. Kwaśniewski won the election, collecting 51.7 percent of votes in the run-off, against 48.3 percent for Lech Wałęsa, the former Solidarity leader.2000 Polish presidential election
The 2000 Polish presidential election took place in Poland on 8 October 2000. Incumbent President Aleksander Kwaśniewski was easily re-elected in the first round after winning more than 50% of the votes.Danuta Wałęsa
Mirosława Danuta Wałęsa, maiden surname Gołoś (born 25 February 1949 near Węgrów), is the wife of the former President of Poland Lech Wałęsa. In 1983 she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway on behalf of her husband, who feared, at a time of great political upheaval in the country, that the Polish government might not allow him to return if he travelled to Oslo himself. Lech and Danuta have been married since 8 November 1969 and have eight children:
Bogdan - b. 1970
Sławomir - b. 1972
Jarosław - b. 1976
Magdalena - b. 1979
Anna - b. 1980
Maria Wiktoria - b. 1982
Brygida - b. 1985.Danuta grew up the second of nine children in Krypy village near Węgrów (Krypy, Gmina Liw). She was working in a flower shop near the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk when she met Lech Wałęsa, then an electrician. After they married, she began using her middle name more than her first name, per Lech's request. She was even more resolutely anti-Communist than her husband. During her husband's frequent interrogations by the SB in the 1980s, she was known to openly taunt officers who came to pick him up.Released in 2011, Danuta Wałęsa's autobiography Marzenia i tajemnice ("Dreams and Secrets", coauthored by Piotr Adamowicz) has sold over 400,000 copies.Fałszywka
Fałszywka (English: false document or forgery) is a Polish socio-political term describing counterfeit top secret files and fake police reports produced by the Ministry of Public Security in the People's Republic of Poland. Their purpose was to undermine the popularity of prominent opponents of Polish United Workers' Party, mainly by attempting to ruin their good name as private individuals. Fałszywka (pl. fałszywki) were used from the beginning of the People's Republic against opponents of the Communist system. These included seemingly stolen or declassified revelations about opposition members working as alleged police informants under the Soviet system. Most notably, some have argued that an entire forged file of this sort was produced in the 1980s and then disseminated by the communist establishment about the leading dissident and future President of Poland Lech Wałęsa when he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This file was fabricated and then "leaked" to the media (as "proof" of his betrayal of Solidarity) in an attempt to prevent Wałęsa from being awarded the Prize. A similar file led to the publication of a widely successful book Zabić tego Polaka (To Kill that Pole) about the fake assassination plan against the Pope John Paul II during his 1983 pilgrimage to Poland.Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport
Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport (Polish: Port Lotniczy Gdańsk im. Lecha Wałęsy, formerly Polish: Port Lotniczy Gdańsk-Rębiechowo, German: Flughafen Danzig Lech Walesa) (IATA: GDN, ICAO: EPGD) is an international airport located 12 km (7.5 mi) northwest of Gdańsk, Poland, not far from the city centres of the Tricity metropolitan area: Gdańsk (12 km (7.5 mi)), Sopot (10 km (6.2 mi)) and Gdynia (23 km (14 mi)). Since 2004 the airport is named after Lech Wałęsa, the former Polish president. With around 5 million passengers served in 2018, it is the 3rd largest airport in Poland in terms of passenger traffic.Janusz Wojtusiak
Janusz Wojtusiak (February 21, 1942 – May 2, 2012) was a Polish entomologist and son of the well-known Polish biologist, Roman Wojtusiak, Professor at the Jagiellonian University.
He began his biological studies at the Jagiellonian University in 1959. After graduating in 1964, he was employed as an Assistant in the Department of Systematic Zoology and Zoogeography under the leaderships of Professor Stanisław Smreczyński. Throughout the 1960s and in the early 1970s he was particularly involved in the activities of the Polish Mountaineering Association.
He presented his Ph.D. thesis in 1971. It concerned the morphology of the family Adelidae. Soon after gaining the title of doctor habilitatus at the beginning of the 1980s, he was appointed Head of the Zoological Museum of the Jagiellonian University. Immediately afterwards, he was offered a contract to teach at a university in Nigeria. Between 1982 and 1986, Janusz taught zoology and entomology at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
One of the scientific result of his stay in Nigeria was the description of a new morphological organ in the ants of the genus Oecophylla, pretarsal pads, which allow these insects to push large prey on smooth and almost vertical surfaces.
After returning from Nigeria, he continued his research in the field of entomology. In 1991, he published a textbook on the ethology of insects, which is the only such comprehensive treatment of this topic in the Polish language to date.
In 1994, he received a professorial nomination from the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa.
From the mid-1990s, Wojtusiak concentrated on the mountainous areas of South America, participating in or organising more than ten scientific expeditions into the Andes, which resulted in more than 100 scientific publications and descriptions of more than 400 new species of butterflies and moths, principally belonging to the family Tortricidae, in co-authorship with Professor Józef Razowski.Jarosław Wałęsa
Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa (pronounced [jaˈrɔswav vaˈwɛ̃sa]; born 13 September 1976 in Gdańsk) is a Polish politician. He was elected to the Sejm on September 25, 2005 getting 14709 votes in 25 Gdańsk district, candidating from the Civic Platform list. He is the son of former Polish President, Lech Wałęsa.
Wałęsa is a 1995 graduate of Glastonbury High School, Connecticut, where he spent his high school years as a foreign exchange student. He then attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
On September 2, 2011, Jarosław was seriously injured riding his motorcycle after colliding with a SUV in Stropkowo near Sierpc. His injuries included a broken spine and dozens of fractures; and he was still undergoing corrective surgeries in July 2015.He married Ewelina Jachymek in a civil ceremony in 2012, and in a convent in 2013. Their son Wiktor was born in March 2014, becoming the twelfth grandson of Lech Wałęsa.In the European Parliament election June 2009, he became a member of the European parliament. In 2014, he was re-elected.He lost his brother, Przemyslaw, 43 (born 1974), Lech Wałęsa's third son, a border guard, who lived in the Morena district in Gdańsk, on Sunday, 8 January 2017.Wałęsa became the new head of the Civic Institute, said to be the think tank of Civic Platform, a Polish political party, on 16 June 2015.Man of Iron
Man of Iron (Polish: Człowiek z żelaza) is a 1981 film directed by Andrzej Wajda. It depicts the Solidarity labour movement and its first success in persuading the Polish government to recognize the workers' right to an independent union.
The film continues the story of Maciej Tomczyk, the son of Mateusz Birkut, the protagonist of Wajda's earlier film, Man of Marble. Here, Maciej is a young worker involved in the anti-Communist labour movement, described as "the man who started the Gdańsk Shipyard strike", and a journalist working for the Communist regime's radio station, who is given a task of slandering Maciej. The young man is clearly intended as a parallel to Lech Wałęsa (who appears as himself in the movie).
Man of Iron clarifies the ending of Man of Marble, which left the death of Mateusz Birkut ambiguous. Man of Iron explicitly states that Mateusz was killed in clashes at the shipyards in 1970.The film was made during the brief thaw in Communist censorship that appeared between the formation of Solidarity in August 1980 and its suppression in December 1981, and as such it is remarkably critical of the Communist regime. Because of this it was banned in 1981 by the Polish government. The film won the Palme d'Or and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.Matarnia
Matarnia (German: Mattern; Kashubian: Matarniô) is one of the quarters of the city of Gdańsk, Poland. The airport Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport is located in Matarnia.Nonpartisan Bloc for Support of Reforms
The Nonpartisan Bloc for Support of Reforms (Bezpartyjny Blok Wspierania Reform), abbreviated BBWR, was an officially nonpartisan organization (but, in fact, a political party) affiliated with Lech Wałęsa. It was established in 1993 and in 1997 became part of Solidarity Electoral Action.
It was founded to continue the traditions of Józef Piłsudski's pre-war Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government (Bezpartyjny Blok Współpracy z Rządem), which likewise had been known by the same initials, BBWR.
After electoral losses in 1994, Wałęsa issued a statement that invoked comparisons with Piłsudski, who had become dictator of Poland: "When the time comes to introduce a dictatorship, the people will force me to accept this role, and I shall not refuse."Pope John Paul II (miniseries)
Pope John Paul II is a 2005 television miniseries dramatizing the life of Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła) from his early adult years in Poland to his death at age 84.
The miniseries was written and directed by John Kent Harrison and aired in the United States on the CBS network on 4 and 7 December 2005. It was first released in Vatican City on 17 November 2005 and ten days later throughout Italy on Rai 1
Jon Voight portrays an older Karol Wojtyła (after his investiture as pope in 1978), while Cary Elwes portrays Wojtyła in his earlier life from 1939 to 1978. Voight was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance.
Pope John Paul II co-stars James Cromwell as Archbishop Adam Stefan Cardinal Sapieha, Ben Gazzara as Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, and Christopher Lee as Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński. Polish actor Mikolaj Grabowski is seen twice playing Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany, who would succeed John Paul II as Pope Benedict XVI.Popowo, Gmina Tłuchowo
Popowo [pɔˈpɔvɔ] is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Tłuchowo, within Lipno County, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-central Poland. It lies approximately 7 kilometres (4 mi) south-west of Tłuchowo, 24 km (15 mi) south-east of Lipno, and 65 km (40 mi) south-east of Toruń.
Lech Wałęsa, former president of Poland, was born here.Solidarity (Polish trade union)
Solidarity (Polish: Solidarność, pronounced [sɔlʲiˈdarnɔɕtɕ] (listen); full name: Independent Self-governing Labour Union "Solidarity"—Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy "Solidarność" [ɲezaˈlɛʐnɨ samɔˈʐɔndnɨ ˈzvjɔ̃zɛk zavɔˈdɔvɨ sɔlʲiˈdarnɔɕtɕ]) is a Polish labour union that was founded on 17 September 1980 at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa. It was the first trade union in a Warsaw Pact country that was not controlled by a communist party. Its membership peaked at 10 million members at its September 1981 Congress, which constituted one third of the total working-age population of Poland.In the 1980s, Solidarity was a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement, using the methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of workers' rights and social change. The government attempted to destroy the union by imposing martial law in Poland, which lasted from December 1981 to July 1983 and was followed by several years of political repression from 8 October 1982, but in the end it was forced to negotiate with Solidarity. In the union's clandestine years, Pope John Paul II and the United States provided significant financial support, estimated to be as much as 50 million US dollars.The round table talks between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August, a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed. In December 1990, Wałęsa was elected President of Poland. Since then, Solidarity has become a more traditional liberal trade union. Its membership had dropped to 680,000 by 2010 and 400,000 by 2011.Space of Freedom
Space of Freedom was a concert performed by French musician Jean Michel Jarre in Poland, at the Gdańsk Shipyard, on August 26, 2005, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Solidarity trade union's foundation. Jarre was invited by Lech Wałęsa to hold this concert, which was watched by an audience of more than 170,000 people who bought tickets, as well as many others who observed the event from outside the shipyard, in high buildings such as Zieleniak and the hills of Góra Gradowa.Lech Wałęsa, the union leader who led the strikes from 1980, and the current president of the city of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, attended the concert. Lech Wałęsa gave a speech on the meaning of Solidarity and on the non-violent upheaval of the political system.The concert was broadcast live on Polish Television and Polish Radio, as well as by satellite. It was reproduced in commemorative books, on audio CD and DVD.Sławomir Cenckiewicz
Sławomir Cenckiewicz (born 1971) is a Polish historian and journalist. A former employee of the Institute of National Remembrance, he is currently the main historical consultant of the Wprost weekly. He gained much media attention following the 2008 by scientific publication (co-work with doktor Piotr Gontarczyk) - book "SB a Lech Wałęsa. Przyczynek do biografii" (SB and Lech Wałęsa. Contribution to biography), about Lech Wałęsa as an informant of the communist Służba Bezpieczeństwa. In their work, Dr. Gontarczyk and Dr. Cenckiewicz argued that in the 1970s, the NSZZ Solidarność leader and former President of Poland Lech Wałęsa was a secret informant of the Polish communist secret police Służba Bezpieczeństwa (SB).He graduated from the Historical Faculty of the Uniwersytet Gdański. His main fields of expertise are the modern history of Poland, including the opposition in the communist Poland and the migrant Polonia. He was habilitated as a doctor of history by the Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego w Warszawie.
He took part in London-based Polonia Aid Foundation Trust (2000 and 2004), Kościuszko Foundation (2000) and Chicago-based Foundation for Free Speech (2005).Walesa. Man of Hope
Walesa. Man of Hope (Polish: Wałęsa. Człowiek z nadziei) (Polish pronunciation: [vaˈwɛ̃sa tʂwɔˈvʲɛk s naˈdʑɛj]) is a 2013 Polish biopic film directed by Andrzej Wajda, starring Robert Więckiewicz as Lech Wałęsa. Wajda stated at Kraków's Off Plus Camera Film Festival in April 2012 that he foresaw trouble following the film's release. The film was selected as the Polish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, but was not nominated.World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates
The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 90s, as a forum in which the Nobel Peace Laureates and the Peace Laureate Organizations could come together to address global issues with a view to encourage and support peace and human well being in the world. Its Permanent Secretariat is an independent, non-profit, ECOSOC non-governmental organization, based in Rome, operating on a permanent basis. A permanent staff, mainly composed of volunteers, promotes the work of the Nobel Peace Prize Winners and organizes the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates on a yearly basis. To date, the Permanent Secretariat has organized 16 Summits, the most recent having been held in February 2017 in the city of Bogota, Colombia. This was the first time that the summit took place in Latin America.Zgorzałe
Zgorzałe [zɡɔˈʐawɛ] (Kashubian Zgòrzałé, German: Seedorf) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Stężyca, within Kartuzy County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, in northern Poland. It lies approximately 5 kilometres (3 mi) north-east of Stężyca, 18 km (11 mi) south-west of Kartuzy, and 45 km (28 mi) west of the regional capital Gdańsk.
For details of the history of the region, see History of Pomerania.
The village has a population of 309.
In Zgorzałe there is the first street in Poland named Lech Wałęsa Street (2009).
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