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12 Mar 2009

Famous Polish Eltonites

Lech Walesa was born on September 29, 1943 in Popowo, Poland. After graduating from vocational school, he worked as a car mechanic at a machine center from 1961 to 1965. During the clash in December 1970 between the workers and the government, he was one of the leaders of the shipyard workers and was briefly detained. In 1976, however, as a result of his activities as a shop steward, he was fired and had to earn his living by taking temporary jobs. In August 1980 he led the Gdansk shipyard strike which gave rise to a wave of strikes over much of the country with Walesa seen as the leader. The primary demands were for workers' rights. In September 1981 he was elected Solidarity Chairman at the First National Solidarity Congress in Gdansk. In April 1990 at Solidarity's second national congress, Walesa was elected chairman with 77.5% of the votes. In December 1990 in a general ballot he was elected President of the Republic of Poland. He served until defeated in the election of November 1995.

"I know little else about music" explained Walesa in his very recommended biography "The struggle and the triumph" book, "and I don't attempt to keep up with popular songs. In April 1984, I was told that Elton John wanted to come to Gdansk and see me. All I knew about him was that he was a celebrity". He reminds how Elton led him in the first row, along with the teenagers, near the tower of gigantic loudspeakers "as if 120 milli-meter cannons had begun shelling (...) I gather it was a great concert" but he swore he never again let to be dragged to a rock concert.

Again? In 2006, the Sopot audience stood up from their seats to attend Elton's concert. The highlight of the evening was the appearance of Lech Wałęsa onstage, who handed the artist the Golden Nightingale statuette for lifetime achievement and a medal minted on the 25th anniversary of the Solidarity trade union.

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