Liking Walesa

Tim Sebastian

  • The Book of Lech Walesa by Lech Badkowski, introduction by Neal Ascherson et al
    Penguin, 203 pp, £8.95, March 1982, ISBN 0 14 006376 5
  • The Polish Challenge by Kevin Ruane
    BBC, 328 pp, £9.95, May 1982, ISBN 0 563 20054 5

For nearly eighteen months Lech Walesa walked on quicksand, buoyant and for all the world supremely confident. In the summer of 1981 I asked him whether he was worried about the Soviet tanks massing on the border. ‘I don’t see any tanks,’ he replied curtly. Vintage Walesa, or a bad day: with Walesa you never knew. There were times, though, when the confidence evaporated and the two-handed victory salutes were traded in for some fireside modesty. ‘In the years to come,’ he said once, ‘people may decide that we went about things in the worst possible way, that we got it all wrong. We’ll just have to see.’ But with Walesa there was always the likelihood of a flip retort, a quick get-out for a man who had spent his life trying to avoid the people’s police. ‘What do you think is your biggest failing?’ ‘I simply haven’t got enough time.’

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