Poland’s Solidarity Leader Wałęsa on Jaruzelski, ‘Bending Democracy’, and Today’s ‘Young Wolves’ in Politics

Poland’s former president and Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa has said that he is ‘close to the end’ of his life, in a magazine interview about the past, politics, marriage, and death.

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Mr Wałęsa, 72, told Newsweek magazine that he had moved to a new office in Gdańsk, but that it would be the last move ‘in this world’. He added that he felt an increasing need to put his affairs in order, and to tell the true story about what had happened in his life.

He was critical of the new generation of politicians – young wolves, as he called them – saying that the revolution he led in the 1980s had been about fighting for Poland.

“I know I am reaching the end,” said Mr Wałęsa. “There are [no longer] people who think like me. A new generation of wolf cubs has grown. We fought with the country in mind, now everyone is fighting with himself in mind.”

But, he added: “Perhaps the young wolves are right?”

Nevertheless, Mr Wałęsa told Newsweek that he did not feel ‘unfulfilled’. He said that it had been his job to renew Poland’s lost freedom, and to free the nation from Soviet rule, and that he had succeeded.

But the former president also told how he had considered ‘bending the rules’ in order to win a new term in office.

He said: “[I thought], do you help yourself, and bend democracy a little to continue to be president, because there are so many things still to do, or do you play democratically, and lose? We deliberately chose the latter option. God and history will judge whether it was appropriate.”

Now, Mr Wałęsa says, he is thinking about putting his affairs in order, and about reconciliation. Among his political enemies with whom he had hoped to make peace, he listed General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the last communist leader of Poland, who declared martial law in the early 1980s. Mr Jaruzelski died in 2014, after a long illness that also prevented him from being tried for communist crimes.

“The General did what he believed in, and it’s hard to blame him,” said Mr Wałęsa. He added that, although he did not agree with the imposition of martial law, he understood the difficulty of making great decisions.

When asked whether he was afraid of anything, he said that death was not among his fears. “Only god. And my wife, a little,” he added.

The full interview is available in the current edition of Newsweek (Polish language)