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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:
Nobel Prize
Lech Walesa Institute

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Lech Walesa
Lech Walesa
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Lech Walesa Interview (page: 4 / 4)

Nobel Prize for Peace

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  Lech Walesa

Before you changed the world, you were fired, from your job in the shipyard. How did that happen?

Lech Walesa: I was fired on several occasions, because really, I got involved in the struggle with more and more determination, and I believe we can already quote the date 1970 as the date of my determined struggle. I was already the leader of the strike then. It was a very inefficient leadership on my part, and we failed with our strike in 1970, but that defeat caused my character -- due to my character I spent the next ten years trying to work out the method that would actually bring about the victory. And when, ten years later, we had another opportunity, I already knew how to go about it, how to deal with it, and I led the struggle the way -- as it should be.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

What were some of the things you learned to do differently that led to the ultimate success?

Lech Walesa: I really had to think over every detail and everything, the whole defeat of 1970. I had to go into really many details. How to achieve victory, what kind of an organization to establish in order to win this victory, and what would be the stages in which we could win the victory? How to avoid the tragedy of bloodshed, of being shut out, and how to negotiate, how to protect food, how to organize duties in order for the whole organization to function, and try to foresee all the possible situations that might happen. And, bearing in mind that there could be alternative outcomes, like a tragic one and a less tragic one, to take into account the behavior of people who are afraid. To take into consideration the behavior of the provocateurs, those who can provoke, and the opponents who would certainly carry out certain resistant action within us. So really, the ten years was not even enough for me to think over all those details. But in fact, when it came, when the situation actually happened, nothing came as a surprise to me. So that means I had foreseen almost all the possible details, not in full, not fully, but generally at least. And certainly, without that period of ten years, we wouldn't have won the victory. Had it not been for the previous defeat, we wouldn't have won the final victory. So, I would say that without the defeat of 1970 we wouldn't have had the victory of 1980.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

Why did it become a national movement and not just stay confined to Gdansk?

Lech Walesa: It's hard to say it very briefly, but the point was that the communist system was bound to fail, because it was an inefficient economic system and it couldn't keep up with the speed of progress in the West.

But there was one more thing that contributed to the victory. In the 1970s and in the 1980s, I had conversations with all the powerful people of the world: with presidents, with prime ministers, chancellors and kings, too. None of them believed that there was any chance of us toppling communism before the year 2000. I didn't meet a single person among those people who would believe that was possible. Not a single one in the whole world.

When I continued saying that we were to win against communism by peaceful means, they looked at me like a madman. And right now we are going to celebrate 2000 years of Christianity, and we have this incredible thing happen to us. We get this divine gift from Heaven, when nobody believes it's possible. Here we have a Pole becoming the Pope. A year later, he visits Poland and he tells us, "Don't be afraid. Change the face of this world." And soon afterwards, we stopped fearing. The fear is gone. A year later out of the 10 people that I had in my command at that point, I have 10 million supporting me, and I actually carry out the changing of the face of the world.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Lech Walesa Interview Photo
I consider this a gift of Providence to celebrate the 2000 years of Christianity. That was the 51 percent contribution to the success. The 35 percent that contributed to success is myself and Solidarity, and the remaining percentage is everybody else's contribution. The actual stamp on the final victory was put down by President Yeltsin, who made a favorable atmosphere, who opposed Mikhail Gorbachev, and who withdrew Russia out of the Soviet Union. Without those three factors, we wouldn't have final victory.

Although you may claim that the Berlin Wall fell down earlier, before Russia actually withdrew from the Soviet Union, I'm sure that even if it had fallen down without Russia doing what she did, it would have been rebuilt personally by the Chancellor of Germany and the President of the United States.

So, please consider these three factors as the major factors. Of course, from the perspective of different nations, there would be other additional factors, but they would be only minor.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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