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 to support democracy and local governance in Poland and around the world.
Walesa has written three books: “The Road of Hope,” “The Road to Freedom,” and “All That I Do, I Do for Poland.” Walesa holds more than 25 honorary doctorates from universities across the world and is the recipient of more than 50 international awards. Time 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.