Rep. Lipinski Meets Polish Hero Lech Walesa10/30/2012
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) met last weekend with Lech Walesa, who led the Polish Solidarity union that defeated communism and became the first democratically elected president of Poland.
"It was a great honor to meet Lech Walesa, whose fearless tenacity propelled him from an electrician in the Gdansk shipyards to a driving force in toppling the Iron Curtain and becoming the first democratically elected president of Poland," Lipinski said. "He is one of the greatest freedom fighters of our time. His leadership of the Solidarity union led to the liberation of 39 million Poles and tens of millions of others from the oppressive yoke of Soviet communism, along with helping to end the Cold War.
"Lech Walesa’s Polish heritage, strong Catholic faith, and tireless dedication to freedom make him one of my greatest heroes. He showed what one person can do with faith, courage, and determination."
Walesa helped form and led Solidarity, communist Poland's first independent trade union. Under his leadership, Solidarity demanded free elections and openly called for the ouster of the Soviet-backed communist government. Walesa, who regarded his Catholicism as a source of strength and inspiration, was incarcerated by the government for almost one year for his activities.
In 1983, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. In 1990, following the collapse of communism, he was elected president of the Republic of Poland, serving until 1995.
Since 2005, Lipinski has represented the 3rd Congressional District, home to more than 100,000 Polish Americans, one of the highest numbers for any congressional district in the United States. A monument to Walesa and the Solidarity movement stands at Archer Avenue and Narragansett Avenue in Chicago's Garfield Ridge community. The Polish Highlanders Alliance of America in headquartered in the district.
Lipinski is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Poland. He has been a strong proponent of admitting Poland to the Visa Waiver Program so that Polish citizens would no longer have to go through a very difficult process to visit the United States. Lipinski’s office has helped hundreds of Polish-American constituents gain visas for their relatives in order to attend weddings, baptisms, and other family events.
Walesa, 69, spoke at a political event in Schaumburg prior to meeting the congressman.