Lech Walesa is the leader of the non-violent Solidarity (“Solidarność”) movement, who led it to a non-violent victory over the Communist regime in Poland in the late 1980s. His life has been inextricably linked with the history of Solidarity and the Polish road to freedom.
Walesa was born in Popowo in 1943. He began his career as a car mechanic, eventually finding a job as an electrician. He was working in the Lenin shipyard in Gandsk when the workers’ protests broke out in 1970, and he became a member of the strike committee. Dismissed from work in 1976, he actively participated in creating the Free Trade Unions that were established in 1978. In 1980 he joined the occupation strike and became chairman of the Inter-enterprise Strike Committee, declaring solidarity with striking workers in other trades and establishing the first union, “Solidarity,” in 1980. A year later, he was elected president of the union. In 1981 when martial law was imposed to seize control over the country and prevent further union activity, Walesa was sent to prison. In November 1982, he returned to Gandsk, and in 1983 he received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1989, he became the chairman of the opposition delegation in the Round Table talks with the communist government and in 1990 was elected President of the (democratic) Republic of Poland. In 1995, he started the Lech Walesa institute to promote democracy and freedom around the world.
For more information, visit www.ilw.org.pl/en