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Lech Walesa - Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

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Born September 29, 1943, in Popowo, Poland, Lech Walesa was the son of a carpenter. In 1970, when the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk were the center of huge and violent demonstrations against the government's decision to increase food prices, Walesa was among the demonstrators. Six years later, Walesa was fired from his job when he not only protested the Gierek government's raise in food prices, but emerged as an anti-government union activist. He turned to the Workers Defense Committee (KOR), an underground intellectual group established to help the families of workers fired because of the protests, and became increasingly involved in their activities as a dissident. Walesa was arrested several times between 1976 and 1980 for his dissident activities.

Lech Walesa GdanskOn August 14, 1980, after the beginning of an occupational strike in the Lenin Shipyard of Gdansk, Wałęsa illegally scaled the wall of the Shipyard and became the leader of this strike. The strike was spontaneously followed by similar strikes across Poland. Several days later, he stopped workers who wanted to leave Gdansk Shipyard, and persuaded them to organize the Strike Coordination Committee (Międzyzakładowy Komitet Strajkowy) to lead and support the naturally occurring general strike in Poland.

Wałęsa kept this position until December 11, 1981, when he was arrested. General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared a state of martial law on December 13. Walesa was interned for 11 months in south-eastern Poland near the Soviet border until November 14, 1982.

In 1989, Wałęsa organized and led the Citizenship Committee of the Chairman of Solidarity Trade Union. Formally, it was just an advisory body, but, practically, it was a kind of a political party, which won parliament elections in 1989 (Opposition took all seats in the Sejm that were subject of free elections and all but one seats in the newly re-established senate; according to the Round Table agreements only members of the Communist Party and its allies could stand for the remaining 64% of seats in Sejm).

On December 9, 1990, Wałęsa won the presidential election to become president of Poland for the next five years. During his presidency, he started a so-called "war at the top" which practically meant changing the government annually. His style of presidency was strongly criticized by most of the political parties, and he lost most of the initial public support by the end of 1995.

In May 10, 2004, the Gdansk international airport has been officially renamed to Gdansk Lech Walesa Airport to commemorate the famous Gdansk citizen. His signature has been incorporated into the airport's logo.


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