Lech Walesa

Poland's brash union organizer stood up to the Kremlin and dealt the Eastern bloc a fatal blow

Lech Walesa, the fly, feisty, mustachioed electrician from Gdansk, shaped the 20th century as the leader of the Solidarity movement that led the Poles out of communism. It is one of history's great ironies that the nearest thing we have ever seen to a genuine workers' revolution was directed against a so-called workers' state. Poland was again the icebreaker for the rest of Central Europe in the "velvet revolutions" of 1989. Walesa's contribution to the end of communism in Europe, and hence the end of the cold war, stands beside those of his fellow Pole, Pope John Paul II, and the...

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