Ex-Polish President Lech Walesa visits St Albans

CHARISMATIC former President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Lech Walesa, spoke of his wishes for a more united Europe when he visited St Albans earlier this month.

Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Maxine Crawley, met the man famous for leading a strike in the Gdansk shipyard that forced the then communist government of Poland to recognise the trade union Solidarity, at a fundraising dinner attended by about 100 people at Sopwell House.

Mr Walesa was originally employed as an electrician at the shipyards in 1967. He was kept under surveillance by the state security service and frequently detained as, along with other activists he began to organise free non-communist trade unions.

However, he assumed leadership of the strike committee, and went on to become a leading Polish opposition figure and successfully fought for legal, free trade unions in Poland. In 1980 he became chairman of the Solidarity trade union and became a Nobel Laureate in 1983. Mr Walesa served as President of Poland from 1990-95.

Mrs Crawley said speaking with 67-year-old Mr Walesa was, “quite overwhelming as he is such a great man.” She added: “Mr Walesa is someone I grew up watching on the news and was an intrinsic part of my upbringing. He is incredibly full of ideas and charismatic. He is very into a united Europe. He is hopeful of barriers breaking down.”

Mrs Crawley, who spoke with Mr Walesa, a technology buff, through an interpreter, said he wanted to reach out to younger generations.

She presented him with a special certificate of honour commemorating his visit to the district. Mr Walesa visited St Albans after delivering a lecture at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield.