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If you like Lech Walesa's story, you might also like:
Mikhail Gorbachev,
John Hume,
Shimon Peres,
Albie Sachs,
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,
Desmond Tutu
and Elie Wiesel

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Lech Walesa in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Global Conflicts

Related Links:
Lech Walesa Institute
TIME
Nobel Prize

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Lech Walesa
 
Lech Walesa
Profile of Lech Walesa Biography of Lech Walesa Interview with Lech Walesa Lech Walesa Photo Gallery

Lech Walesa Interview (page: 3 / 4)

Nobel Prize for Peace

Print Lech Walesa Interview Print Interview

  Lech Walesa

Lech Walesa Interview Photo
That shipyard is a big place. You were an independent spirit even then. What was it like to work in this kind of big structure?

Lech Walesa: I felt a little bit uneasy to start with, because it was really a big city, with a relatively big population. Where I had lived before, there were very few people. Everybody knew me. Everybody would bow to the ground before me, because I was somebody there. I was really talented, I could earn a lot of money, so on the local scale, I was highly positioned, Now here I was, in Gdansk, there's nobody saying hello to me or bowing to me, nobody noticing me, so I decided to change the situation. I must make them recognize me. Well as it turned out afterwards, people recognized me.

And what did they recognize in you?

Lech Walesa: It took a long, long time before it actually happened, but as I said...


The education, the background that I had, the straightforward principles that I referred to, based on rules and values -- which is the truth, honesty, decent behavior, decency -- all this really gave me a lot of support around people, among the working people. It was a little bit more difficult to find some understanding among the powerful people, the hierarchy because I would often criticize them. I would point out things that they did wrong or that didn't function well. So, the point was that I got some support and some stimulus from the low levels, whereas I wouldn't get the criticism from the top levels of the people.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity


What was the cause of unhappiness in the shipyard? What were the conditions that people became unhappy with?


Lech Walesa: A shipyard is a kind of a window to the world. In a shipyard, people are arriving from all different places around the world. There would be sailors and there would be ship owners. So, that also incited discussions about working conditions, living conditions. So people would start comparing what money they make here and what money was made elsewhere. And, the point was that those people who were aware of other things, they would revolt more quickly than the others, by comparing the achievements of one system against the other and also the working conditions and the salaries. That's why occasionally we would protest. Sometimes there were large-scale protests and sometimes they were smaller-scale protests. And, my career is actually made by those protests. Had we had better living and working conditions, I wouldn't be here talking to you.

[ Key to Success ] Vision


Weren't people afraid to protest at first? It must have taken some persuasion.

Lech Walesa: When it comes to struggle, almost everybody is nervous and afraid, in every struggle all over the world. I think in Poland the anxiety was even stronger, because after all, we had to face the Political Police.


We had the Soviet troops stationed in Poland for 50 years, over 200,000 soldiers based permanently on the territory of Poland. So, people would end up in prisons for some time, very often, they would be beaten up by the police. There were not so many people who would claim to be very courageous. Then again, you have people of different characters. Some are really put off by the hardships, by the difficulties, whereas the others actually strengthen. I was among the latter, who became stronger due to the hardships, and I got involved in my struggle with much more determination.

[ Key to Success ] Passion


Why did the shipyard management tolerate you as long as they did?

Lech Walesa: I believe they're asking themselves the same question now. I believe Gorbachev himself is asking the same question, because after all, I did lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and he ceased being the First Secretary of the Communist Party. Despite that fact, he received a Nobel Peace Prize, and so did I. I got my prize for winning against Gorbachev and against the Soviet Union, whereas he received it for his defeat, which was considered valuable in a certain category. That's the world, two opponents.

Lech Walesa Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   


This page last revised on Mar 03, 2008 17:36 EDT