Lech Wałęsa

Lech Wałęsa
Source: MEDEF, 2009

Lech Wałęsa was born on September 29, in 1943, in Poland. He was an activist who formed and led the first independent union in communist Poland, called “Solidarity”. Wałęsa received the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1983, and he was the President of Poland between 1990 and 1995.

Son of a carpenter, Wałęsa received professional education and, in 1967, he started working as an electrician at the Lenin shipyard, in Gdańsk. In 1976, after protests against the Communist government in Poland, Lech Wałęsa emerged as an anti-government union activist and lost his job. On August 14, in 1980, during some protests at the shipyard, Wałęsa led a strike which started a wave of strikes across the country and communist authorities were forced to negotiate the Gdańsk Agreement with Wałęsa. This agreement gave workers the right to strike and to have an independent union.

On September 22, in 1980, “Solidarity” was formally founded when 36 regional unions came together. In the following year, Lech Wałęsa was elected President of the union, officially recognized by the government. When the Polish government imposed martial law, Wałęsa’s party was banned, most of its leaders were arrested, including Wałęsa, who was in jail for almost a year. The government criticized the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Wałęsa in 1983, however, he was recognized for his peaceful struggle for workers’ rights.

In 1988, the government made “Solidarity” a legal party again that participated in free elections and won the majority of seats in the upper house of parliament. However, Wałęsa refused the post of Prime Minister, but he became President of “Solidarity” in April 1990. In December of the same year he was elected President of the Republic of Poland, a position he held until November 1995. That same year, Wałęsa announced he was leaving political life and dedicate himself to the Lech Wałęsa Institute, which aimed to promote democracy and civil society.


Stefoff, R. (1992). Lech Walesa: The road to democracy. Ballantine Books

Wałęsa, L., Wałes̜a, L., Rybicki, A., & Wał, L. (1992). The struggle and the triumph: An autobiography. New York: Arcade Publishing.

Eringer, R. (1982). Strike for Freedom!: The Story of Lech Walesa and Polish Solidarity. New York: Dodd, Mead.