On this day August 14, 1980

Lech Wałęsa leads strikes at the Gdańsk, Poland shipyards, after the beginning of an occupational strike in the Lenin Shipyard of Gdańsk, Wałęsa became the leader of this strike. The strike was spontaneously followed by similar strikes, first in Gdańsk, and then across Poland.

Lech Wałęsa

Lech Wałęsa

In September of that year, the Communist government signed an agreement with the Strike Coordination Committee to allow legal organization, but not actual free trade unions.

The Strike Coordination Committee legalized itself into National Coordination Committee of Solidarność (Solidarity) Free Trade Union, and Wałęsa was chosen as a chairman of this Committee.

Wałęsa kept this position until 13 December 1981, when he was arrested. General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared a state of martial law on 13 December. Wałęsa was incarcerated for 11 months in eastern Poland in several villages (Chylice, Otwock and Arłamów near the Soviet border) until 14 November 1982.

In 1983, he applied to come back to Gdańsk Shipyard as a simple electrician. The year 1983 also saw Wałęsa being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was unable to receive the prize himself, fearing that the government would not let him back in. His wife, Danuta Wałęsa, received the prize in his place.

Apart from his Nobel Prize (1983) , Wałęsa received several other international prizes. He has been awarded 33 honorary degrees from several United States and European Universities. Named “Man of the Year” by: Time Magazine, 1981; The Financial Times, 1980; The Observer, 1980, 2009; Legion of Liberty (IPEA).

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