Lech Walesa is a Polish politician, trade union organizer, and a 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. An electrician by trade, Walesa became a trade union activist and was placed under surveillance, persecuted, and arrested by the Communist authorities. In 1981, he cofounded Solidarity, the first independent trade union in the Soviet bloc. Martial law was declared in Poland, Solidarity was outlawed, and Walesa was arrested again. 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, which 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 to those who have impacted the world through the written word or the field of communications.
Walesa 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. Through the Lech Walesa Institute he continues to participate in civil society, pro-democracy causes, and political life.
In 2017, the National Remembrance Institute, which documents communist era crimes, accused Walesa of being a paid informant for communist authorities in the 1970s. Walesa has vehemently denied the accusations stating the the evidence was falsified.