Lech Walesa

First democratically elected president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize

Lech Walesa is a Polish politician, trade union organizer, and former prisoner of conscience. Walesa served as the first democratically elected president of Poland from 1990 to 1995, leading the country through its transition from dictatorship to democracy. In 1981, he co-founded Solidarity, the first independent trade union in the Soviet bloc. Martial law was declared in Poland, Solidarity was outlawed, and Walesa was arrested. After his release, he was instrumental in negotiations for semi-free parliamentary elections in 1989, which a Solidarity-led coalition won to become the first non-communist government in the Soviet bloc. In 1990, Walesa was elected president. He currently leads the Lech Walesa Institute, an organization he founded in 1995 that presents the Lech Walesa Solidarity Prize (formerly named the Lech Walesa Award) and supports democracy and local governance in Poland and around the world. In 2010, he established the Lech Walesa Media Award for those who have impacted the world through the written word or the field of communications. He has written four books: “The Road of Hope,” “The Road to Freedom,” “The Struggle and the Triumph,” and “All That I Do, I Do for Poland.” Walesa holds more than 45 honorary doctorates from universities across the world and is the recipient of more than 50 international awards. Time magazine named Walesa “Man of the Year” in 1981. In 1983, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He is a member of the international advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial.

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