Lech Walesa
Leader of Poland’s Solidarity Movement

Lech Walesa was born September 29, 1943 in Popowo, Poland. After completing his education at vocational school, Walesa worked as an electromechanic and subsequently performed a two-year military service as a conscript. In 1967, Walesa was employed as an electrician at the Gdansk shipyard, where anti-government political activity was beginning.

In 1970, Walesa became one of the leaders of the strike in the shipyard which was suppressed brutally by the Communist regime. He engaged in organizing and activating free and independent trade unions. In August of 1980, Walesa again joined his striking colleagues and went on to become the leader of the social movement “Solidarity” which would ultimately overthrow Communism in Poland.

He was elected Chairman at the first convention of the independent trade union Solidarity in September of 1981. On December 13, 1981, following the imposition of martial law, he was interned and kept in isolation and detention centers for eleven months.

He returned to the Gdansk shipyard and resumed leadership of outlawed Solidarity in April of 1983. Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 1983. By August of 1988, Walesa was the leader of two protest actions in the shipyard which gave rise to the tranformation process in Poland. The Civic Committee led by Walesa developed into a wide-spread social and political initiative.

Lech Walesa co-chaired “sound table talks” between the opposition and Communist authorities. As a result, Solidarity was reinstated under law, and on June 4, 1989, partly free elections were conducted, in which the Communists were defeated.

On December 9, 1990, Walesa was elected President of the Republic of Poland in the general and free election, the first to be organized in Poland after World War II.

In 1996, Lech Walesa founded the Walesa Institute. Mr. Walesa is married to Danuta Walesa and has four sons and four daughters.

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