Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has changed the very nature of his country. Not only did he lead the protests against a rigged presidential election in November 2004 and ensure that a fresh and fair election was held, he also strengthened people's faith in the power of civil society both in his own country and around the world. With his "orange revolution," world democracy is now augmented with a new hue. Yushchenko has become an authentic statesman precisely because he has not sought power for himself but has instead sought truth and integrity for his fellow citizens. He has hauled Ukraine in the direction of the West, while averting his country's disintegration.
Yushchenko, 51, rescued Ukraine from the triumph of deceit because he believed in the power of ordinary people. The Ukrainian revolution brought us an echo of the protest in my country at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980, when Poland's Solidarity movement was born. Yushchenko took his place at the negotiating table and peacefully secured a rerun of the elections, which he went on to win. I had the honor of taking part in those negotiations and am proud that together with European Union foreign policy czar Javier Solana and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkuswe contributed to reaching an agreement. That success would have been impossible if Yushchenko had not put the public good above his own sense of personal wrong. At a time when many people, even in countries with strong democratic traditions, believe that they have no real influence on what happens to them, Ukraine's revolution has had a revitalizing effect. Thanks to Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine went through its own Solidarity movement. Now it has to go through a series of reforms that, I am convinced, will set the country on the road to Europe.
Kwasniewski has been President of Poland since 1995