Lech Walesa is a former president of Poland and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner. He is also a humanitarian and a co founder of ‘Solidarity’, the Soviet’s bloc’s first independent union and was appointed its first chairman. The prime objective of the organization was to secure worker's rights including the right to strike and to organize their own independent unions for which Walesa, along with his colleagues and co workers, organized and led the free non-communist trade unions and gained support from across the country. A former trade union and human right activist, Lech Walesa served Poland as its President for 5 years beginning from 1990 till 1995 until he was defeated in the next presidential elections because of his strategies that were not acceptable to the country. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the light of his distinguished service in 1983.
Childhood & Early Life
Lech Walesa was born on 29 September 1943 in Popowo, Poland and his father was a carpenter. After graduating from a vocational school he worked as a car mechanic from 1961 to 1965 and later served in the army for two years. 1970, he joined Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk as an electrical technician. Lech Walesa married Danuta Golos in 1969 and the couple now has eight children. In 1970, when a clash broke between workers and the government, he was one of the leaders of the Shipyard workers and was often arrested on account of his activities. He eventually lost his job in 1976 and earned his livelihood by taking whatever jobs he could find. A devout Catholic, Lech Walesa always regarded his Catholicism as his source of inspiration and encouragement.
Early Political Activities
In June 1978, Lech Walesa began to organize Free Trade Unions of the coast that kept him under the constant watch of the state security service and later in year 1980, he became the leader of the occupational strikes held in the Lenin Shipyard. A wave of other strikes followed demanding the worker’s rights to organize their own independent trade unions and strike which forced the authorities to initiate a negotiation with Walesa. The communist government signed an agreement with the strike committee which allowed legal organization but not the actual free trade. The strike committee legalized itself into National Coordination committee of Solidarnosc Free Trade Union which became known as Solidarity. Walesa was elected as a chairman of the committee.
Walesa served as the chairman of the committee until his arrest on 13 December 1981 and a martial law was declared in the country on the same day. Walesa was imprisoned for 11 months and was put in south-eastern Poland near the Soviet border until 14 November 1982. In the next year in 1983, he was awarded the honorable Nobel Peace Prize which was received by his wife his wife I his place. During 1987-1990 Walesa embarked on organizing and leading the Temporary Executive Committee of Solidarity Trade Union which was partly illegal according to the previous agreement with the communist government. He intensified his demands for re legalization of the Solidarity Trade Union in 1988 pushing the government into a negotiation with him. The negotiation ended with the government signing an agreement to re establish the Solidarity Trade Union and to organize half free elections to the Parliament of Poland.
In 1989, Walesa, organized the Citizenship Committee of the Chairman of Solidarity Trade Union and led it to the victory in the parliament elections held in the same year. As a Chairman of Solidarity Trade Union, Walesa influenced former communist party leaders into forming a non-communist coalition government in Poland. The first non-communist government in the Soviet Bloc’s realm was formed with a condition to elect Tadeusz Mazowiecki as the Prime Minister of Poland. He became the first recipient of the liberty Medal which was awarded on 4 July 1989 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Lech Walesa won the presidential election in 1990 and was sworn in as the President of Poland on 9 December 1990, though his policies were not acceptable to the country and by the end of 1995, he had lost most of the public support. He was strongly criticized by his allied parties for his method of presidency which included changing the government annually. His declining popularity left a negative impact and he eventually lost the 1995 presidential election. After that, Walesa tried to form his own party and organized a new party called Solidarity Electoral Action in 1997. However the real leader of the party was a Marian Krzaklewski, an emerging leader of Solidarity Trade Union.
Walesa further lost the presidential election in 2000 with a receiving an abysmal 1% of the votes. From that time on, he retired himself to lecturing on history and politics at various Universities and till date he remains active and has been awarded honorable titles and medals. He was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award in 2001 that named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope Jon XXIII meaning ‘Peace on Earth’. In 2002, Walesa represented Europe in the opening ceremony of the XIX Olympic Winter Games carrying the Olympic flag. He was awarded the title ‘Defender of Faith’ from the Italian Cultural Association on 30 May 2007. Of late, Walesa has been suffering from heart problems; he has had a pacemaker implanted in his heart on 27 February 2008.