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Significant Men: Lech Walesa.

Updated on October 29, 2013
Now the elder statesman.
Now the elder statesman. | Source

A New Man, A New Poland.

Lech Walesa was born in 1943, in 1945 his country was liberated by the Red Army and was turned into a one-party Communist state. His country became controlled by its Eastern neighbour, the Soviet Union. His country was Poland and Poland did not like to be controlled. Walesa grew up in the town of Popowo, in a previously well to do family which had become impoverished by World War II.

The Shipyards.

By 1966 Walesa found himself working as an Electrician at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk. By now he was a trade union member and became a trade union organizer. He became leader of the strike committee in 1970. In that year industrial action was rife, this included a strike at the Gdansk shipyard. This unrest forced the resignation of the Polish head of state, Wladyslaw Gomulka. By now Walesa was becoming a well known union leader, his employers were unhappy with this and he was sacked in 1976 after further strike activity. He did however remain a member of the union strike committee.

Solidarity.

Gomulka's successor was Edward Gierek, he was forced to step down in 1980, after his efforts to modernise the industrial base of Poland, had plunged the country into crippling debt. On August 14th 1980, Walesa became the leader of a strike in the Lenin shipyard. The strike was a protest over food prices and sparked industrial action across the country. In September the Communist government had no option but to sign an agreement with the Strike Committee. They had agreed to allow the formation of free trade unions, this transformed the Strike committee into a national federation of unions, with an estimated 10 million members. This federation became known as Solidarnosc or Solidarity. Walesa was the chairman.

Politics and the Pope.

By December 1981 Poland had a tougher government, this was headed by General Wojciech Jaruzelski. An attempt was made to re-impose state control by imposing martial law. Solidarity was banned, some of its leaders were detained, others were kept under surveillance. Needless to say Walesa was detained, he was released in November 1982. Jaruzelski suspended martial law in late 1982 and it was lifted completely in mid 1983. However, unrest continued but this time protesters and dissidents were given international support, this time it really was time for a change. Polish Pope John Paul II visited his homeland that year, he was received by huge crowds. The whole of Europe was pleased to see this visit, Pope Paul was admired and trusted by millions throughout the world. Walesa was granted a private audience with the Pope and in October that same year 1983, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

The President.

1989 brought the collapse of communism throughout Eastern Europe, in Poland the ban on Solidarity was lifted. Walesa by now was seen as a possible leader and held a position of influence. He began negotiations with Jaruzelski over the future of the country, eventually agreements were reached on reform of the political system. Mainly allowing free and fair elections. In 1990 and by a landslide victory Lech Walesa was elected president. His efforts guided Poland to a free-market economy but his time in office was not without controversy. Political infighting was still the order of the day and in 1995 Walesa stepped down. His personal strengths and fortitude, had brought about great change in Poland and he is still a man who commands the greatest respect.

Significant Men: Gorbachev.



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    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      CLEARING THIS BOX.

      GRAHAM.

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Yes Pamela. When times called for a leader, he came forward and did the job. Thank you for your visit and comments.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Pamela. Thank you for your visit and welcome comments. Yes, I think he did great things for Poland in his day. I think of the old saying 'cometh the hour, cometh the man' I feel we are in need of such in the uk at present. I see many 'talking heads' but not a leader.

      Graham.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I remember the days when Lech Walesa's image and words were on the nightly news, week after week. This hub puts it into perspective. Good stuff!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Chef. Thank you for your visit and comments. Yes, cometh the hour cometh the man. He led from the front without doubt.

      Graham.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      I remember this man from t.v. and radio interviews. Lech Walesa always seemed to have the worker's rights in his mind and had very strong views about the future for his country.

      I enjoyed recapturing those times from your hub, which seem a million light years away now! Those were revolutionary days. I think Poland is relatively stable now thanks to leaders like Lech.

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Helen. Thank you for your wonderful comments, I do appreciate them. Yes it was certainly a case of 'cometh the hour cometh the man' He was a man of his time. I remember the start of his actions when I saw him leading a large group of workers from the shipyard, it was on the TV news. He had a boiler suit on and was rolling up his sleeves. Thank you so much for your votes and sharing.

      Graham.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Fabulous hub Graham!! I remember this exceptional man being in the news so much in the 70's and 80's and the final victory of Solidarity! I think there must have been many times when Lech Walesa felt like it was a hopeless cause, but he stuck in there and I think your article has done the man proud! I also have to say, that I've seen quite a few photos of Poland and her cities, Warsaw in particular - what a beautiful country it is! No wonder the Polish people are proud of it!!

      A wonderful hub Graham about this fascinating leader!! Voted up + shared!

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Eddy. Thank you for your kind comments, I do appreciate them very much. Yes, I do have difficulties but as you know yourself, we have to fight them whatever they may be. I will be here without doubt this new year. Thank again Eddy.

      Graham.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Having returned to your hub again would like to say that while you do not want pity I just want to say that I wish you better times in this new year ahead and here's to so many more hubs for you to share on here. I look forward to them.

      Take care love from my little corner of Wales.

      Eddy./

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      I look forward to it Mel.

      Graham.

    • Globetrekkermel profile image

      Globetrekkermel 4 years ago from CALIFORNIA

      Graham,absolutely, we all live fragile lives no matter how vigilant we are with our bodies.I am very thankful for being given a second chance in life. But we all have to face the truth- with Wear and tear, it's going to fall off eventually. I have embraced that with open arms. Give it up, sooner or later,it's going to happen.No use resisting the inevitable.LOL! You may find this funny and strange but one of my many yearly new year's resolution is to perfect my practice of: how to die while you are alive? Now that you mentioned it, hey , I am gonna stay with my wig. I will change my profile pic with the wig I used to wear. HA HA HA ! you be the judge !

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Mel. Stay with the wig. LOL.

      I am glad you are now allright we never know what's round the corner. Keep on travelling.

      Graham.

    • Globetrekkermel profile image

      Globetrekkermel 4 years ago from CALIFORNIA

      Happy new year, Graham, yes i agree with you. Sympathy is the last thing you would want to hear when you are dealing with health issues. I am a cancer survivor myself and have successfully battled breast cancer about 6 years ago.The last thing I needed back then was, people telling me how sorry they were for me. I was terrified at the beginning but eventually, I was able to get that out of my system .Chemo was not all that bad and I only lost about 10 pounds during the process .Lost my hair too but i had a very stylish wig which i got a lot of compliments then. I love my wig better than my own hair now, lol! I am thinking to cut my hair really shorter now and continue using my wig! lol Radiation was a breeze as well, one pop through the machine and i was done, drove home and went on to go gardening or shoppping after. Like you, my husband , is my rock. He took off 3 months work to look after me when I was going through chemo and had bouts of nausea and vomiting . For that, I feel indebted to him. I also had an excellent family support system both my in laws and my side of the family. God bless you and God bless Pauline your wife. When push comes to shove, family is the best thing that ever happens to you.Will contact you if I will make it to Manchester in February. GBY - God bless you.

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Mel. It is indeed a small world and I wish your niece the very best in her studies. I am afraid I must decline to take up your invitation to dine. The reason? I have not mentioned this on hub pages before. I have a muscle wasting and degenerative condition, commonly called Kennedys Disease. (Google for info). It confines me to a wheelchair most of the time, I am unable to swallow food in a proper manner and I am afraid a lot more as well. I need a ventilator to breath when lying down as my chest muscles in general are very weak. It is difficult for me to hold cutlery so meal times are sometimes a problem - Well Mel there you have a very brief outline of things, there is more on a day to day basis. I have not mentioned any of this on Hubpages as I do not seek sympathy. Pauline my wife of 44 years looks after me very well.

      Thank you for your wonderful invitaton, we cannot make it but we do want to know what goes on out there!! That's why I am on the pages when I am able. We wish you, yours and your niece all you would wish yourselves in this New Year. Today is New Year's Day 2013. Hip Hip Hooray!

      Graham.

    • Globetrekkermel profile image

      Globetrekkermel 4 years ago from CALIFORNIA

      Oh my god Graham, Believe it or not, my niece is studying at the University of Manchester For her PhD doctorate for a year. She started at the university since september.Small world isn't it? I am scheduled to visit her in february, God Willing..are you near The University Of Manchester? If you are, I would like to invite you and your wife for lunch or dinner.

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Mel. I live near Manchester which is in the county of Lancashire. North West England. North of my area is the English Lake District. The most beautiful and scenic area of England.

      Graham.

    • Globetrekkermel profile image

      Globetrekkermel 4 years ago from CALIFORNIA

      Graham, I try to escape whenever I can! lol! You can tell travelling is in my blood and my passion, LOL!... What part of England do you live ? Been to England a few times but is has been a while since the last time I was there.

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Globetrekkermel. You certainly do get around.LOL.

      Graham.

    • Globetrekkermel profile image

      Globetrekkermel 4 years ago from CALIFORNIA

      I almost made it to Warsaw once but there was a heavy blizzard at the airport , my flight to Warsaw from Germany was cancelled .

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Globetrekkermel. Thanks Mel for your visit. Yes, he certainly made a difference to Poland. A good man I feel.

      Graham.

    • Globetrekkermel profile image

      Globetrekkermel 4 years ago from CALIFORNIA

      Hi Graham, I saw a documentary film of Lech Walesa recently and I must say he seems to be a champion for the masses. He loves his IPAD and computers in general.I thought that was really cute! LOL!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Eddy. Thanks for your visit, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Graham.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you for sharing this great hub Graham.

      Very interesting and well informed.

      Eddy.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hello Ruby. Thank you for your valued visit and comments. Walesa is well remembered in his homeland where he still lives and works.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi aethelthryth. Thank you for your valued visit and comment. Yes, it seems politicians soon fade from public memory.

      Graham.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I love to read articals about history. He, Walesa should be remembered. Thank you..

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 5 years ago from American Southwest

      I knew the name, knew he was a man to be respected, but didn't really know what the events were. Thank you for a good summary.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Bill. thanks for your visit and valued comments. Yes, it is amazing what can be done one man or one country.

      Graham.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      One man....one dream.....the power of determination....you captured him perfectly Graham! Great write-up about a formidable world figure. Well done!

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi UH. Thanks for your visit and excellent comments. Yes, after I wrote the review of Gorbachev many commenters had not heard of him either. I have one or two more in the pipeline.

      Thank for your votes!

      Graham.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Graham, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Walesa. I wonder how many today know or remember what he and Solidarity accomplished. As with any historical figure, there is controversy, but part of the (relatively) peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union had its roots in the Polish situation. To my Russian friends, I hasten to add the collapse had terrible consequences for the ordinary people-- imagine being retired and depending on a pension and social security and having the dollar devalued 100:1. Great job, Graham. Voted up, etc and shared.