A Visit with Lech Walensa
On Wednesday, September 9th, I had an opportunity to hear and meet with Lech Welensa in the ships lounge just outside the famous Gdansk Shipyard. He graciously allowed Julie and I to be pictured with him, but he insisted that either he be allowed to stand on a chair or I bend over. As you can see, we all enjoyed my “stoop”.
Here are some of his comments:
In World War II we warned everyone about Stalin (not Hitler) and no one listened. The west made alliances with Stalin to defeat Hitler and you know the rest. The Polish people know more about this than you.
The Polish people endured many hardships under Stalin and Communism. We studied the other attempts to overthrow communism and wanted to make sure that we did not repeat these mistakes. We knew of the Czech uprising and the problems they had.
Some felt it was impossible to break away from the Soviet system. Some felt that there had to be a way and I was among them. We decided to consult with all the powerful world leaders and all they could offer was support. No one thought we could do it.
We took one careful step after another. With each step we tested the Communist Party. We rallied the workers of the Gdansk shipyard, which was the center of maritime production for the Soviet Union, and took many actions that did not arouse the Soviets and Gorbechev with his Perestroika and Glasnost.
At a time when we were discouraged, a Pole was elected the Pope. A year after he as elected, he decided to come to Poland. He put millions into the streets in front of the entire world and all the communist could do is watch. During services our leaders who were proclaimed atheists would do the sign of the cross during mass. We wondered what they were saying as they made the sign of the cross, “1-2-3-4?” When we saw this we knew they were radishes – only red on the outside. In 1981 they attempted to assassinate the pope only to find he was immortal.
We started a process that gave other states the courage to do the same.
The rest of the story you know.
I’d like to address some other issues. Right now we are faced with a great transformation in today’s world. We are moving towards Globalization and the European Union.
We have established an economic relationship with other European counties called the European Union (EU). We have created the United States of Europe, although we do not call it that. The USA is a collection of states that are all independent yet act a single union for issues of trade defense, etc. Poland is a member of the EU. We wish to adopt the common currency but we need to make further reforms to comply with the guidelines to use the euro. We feel that the survival of Europe depends on this.
If I were to speak with my dead Father and tell him that there are no boarders in Europe and there are no soldiers at the border of Germany and Poland he would die of a heart attack all over again.
Our real challenge is are we fast enough in reforming and restructuring the old structures and institutions to be able to cope and face the new times. So far we are not fast enough in doing that, which can be testified by the financial crisis that we are going though. This could not happen if the banking system could adapt to the new changes. The current economic system will not work under globalization.
We should be obliged to declare on the internet all of what we possess. If you don’t declare it t, you forfeit it. Then we will all be able to assess that 10% of the population has 90% of the globe’s wealth. And certainly such an advanced world that we have today will not accept such a disproportion. I feel populists and demigods will be taking advantage of such a situation and give away things that don’t belong to them. They of course hey will try to regain the money that they have given away trough taxes. So unless we reform certain things we will be faced with these demigods.
We used to make war to increase our territories, now we need new thinking. Will Germany ever invade Poland again? NO! We buy more Mercedes than the Germans do!
We must reform democracy, If we follow our old system of democracy then what happens when we let China or India into the Euopean Union. With a million voteds we will suddenly be a Province of China. We must adapt democracy to be a Global Democracy.
And he then took some questions He asked us to ask tough questions because if we solved any problems he would be able to show off by telling others his answers to hard questions..
Q. What do you think of placing missiles in Poland?
A. Putting missiles in Poland is worthless – We already have the capacity to destroy the earth 10 times over.
Q.What do you think of Al-Qaeda?
A. Al-Qaeda will fail, in time, because the rest of the world will not tolerate their methods.
Q. What do you think about the US in Iraq.
A. The USA offered democracy to Iraq. When they had an election and no one showed up. The people did not vote. So much for democracy in Iraq.
Q. Did you feel at risk during this process?
A. Of course. You know the history of those who threatened the Party. It is not good. There are 200,000 Soviet troops in Poland to keep things in line. The KGB followed me everywhere. The stayed outside my home at night. You never knew when they might knock. I had a double that would hide in my car at work. At night when I came home, the double would exit my car and enter my house. Later I would emerge from the car unnoticed wearing a beard and would spend 2 or 3 days in secret meetings. When I came back to my house I would hand my beard though the window of the KGB agent watching the house and say “No Christmas bonus for you.”
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