Secret recording claims legend of Lech Wałęsa during 1980 Polish strike is false

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Contrary to the legend, Lech Wałęsa did not jump over a fence to get into the Gdańsk shipyard to lead the strike in August 1980, but was instead brought in by the communist navy in a motorboat, according to a 2013 secret recording released this weekend.

The illicit recording was made of a conversation between the former post-communist Prime Minister Leszek Miller and a Polish oligarch Jan Kulczyk, with Polish public TV releasing the secret recording this weekend.

The recording was made in 2013 in a fashionable Warsaw restaurant by the same group of people who made illicit recordings of several senior figures in the previous Civic Platform (PO) government.

Miller’s and Kulczyk’s conversation reveals that Kulczyk persuaded the famous film director and Oscar-honored Andrzej Wajda to change the ending of his 2013 film on Lech Wałęsa, “Man of hope”, so that it was more positive for the former Solidarity leader and included no allusions to Wałęsa’s contacts with the Polish secret police. 

Kulczyk, who died in 2015 in Vienna just before Law and Justice (PiS) came to power, hoped that Wałęsa could be persuaded to attack PiS who were then in opposition but gaining support in the polls. At the same time, Kulczyk hoped the positive image of Wałęsa in Wajda’s film would make these attacks more credible.

Miller in turn reveals that “Wałęsa never jumped over any fence” and that a senior commander of the Polish navy had told him that he was taken into the Gdańsk shipyard by boat to lead the strike. It is not the first time that Wałęsa’s account of his joining the strike have been challenged.

But in a social media post, Leszek Miller appeared to back off the claim made in the 2013 conversation.

“I apologize to President Lech Wałęsa for the fact that in a conversation with Jan Kulczyk, I repeated false rumors about him being taken into the shipyard to lead the strike. According to the historical policy of the current government, that is not possible as the strike was led by someone else,” wrote Leszek Miller on Twitter.

Former Solidarity activists, such as Krzysztof Wyszkowski, have argued for years that Wałęsa had been brought to the shipyard by the communist secret police.

Many of these activists will likely feel that the new recording between a post-communist former prime minister and an oligarch simply confirms their conviction of how Wałęsa’s startling career begun, and furthermore, that the Solidarity leader maintained ties to the post-communists for the rest of his life.

Title image: Lech Wałęsa during the 1980 Solidarity strike in Gdańsk. Source: Wikipedia.


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