Monday, November 14, 2005

November 14, 1982

On November 14,1982 Lech Walesa was released after an 11 month internment near the Soviet border. Walesa a shipyard electrician helped start the labor union movement in the Soviet controlled country of Poland. Fired from his job at the Gdansk shipyard for being a labor agitator he later joined his former colleagues in 1980 as they went on strike to protest an increase in food prices. He was quickly elected strike leader and the demands of the strikers were soon met.

Walesa did not stop with this one victory he continued the struggle and organized additional strikes which eventually led the Polish government to legalize trade unionism and to grant larger freedoms of religious and political expression. As a result Solidarity was formed as a national federation of unions. Under Walesa's leadership this group's political influence multiplied expontentially becoming a threat to the Polish government.

In December 1981 maritial law was declared in Poland. The Solidarity movement was outlawed and Walesa was arrested. Walesa was eventually released in 1982 but Solidarity remained illegal. Walesa did not give in, instead he continued to lead the Solidarity movement from underground. As a result of continued pressure from Solidarity and continuing economic hardships a new wave of strikes erupted in 1988. The Polish government was forced to negotiate and in April 1989 Solidarity was legalized and allowed to participate in government. By September there was a Solidarity led government and in 1990 Walesa was overwhelmingly elected President in Poland's first direct presidential election.

A simple shipyard electrician, with the help of Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, helped to defeat communism from within, thus freeing millions in eastern europe. November 14, 1982 a date from the Cold War worthy of rememberance.

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