Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland’s first post-Communist prime minister, has died in a Warsaw hospital. He was 86.
“We say goodbye to a good man and a friend of many,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk said while signing a book of condolences, according to the Polish web site, The News
. “We remember his remarkable calm, strength of spirit and wise eyes. He was one of the most prominent Polish politicians of the 20th century, of that there can be no doubt.”
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Condolences also were flooding Twitter.
The liberation of Poland from the Soviet bloc was crucial in the fall of the Iron Curtain. Events were set in motion in the summer of 1980 when Lech Walesa led a strike at the Gdansk shipyard to demand higher pay. Mazowiecki played a critical role, the New York Times noted, in helping to broaden the strike
into “an antibureaucratic social movement that became known as solidarity.”
Mazowiecki, an intellectual, helped write an agreement that ended the strike and guaranteed workers' rights to form independent trade unions free to strike. But the Communist government later declared martial law and jailed Mazowiecki for more than a year. When he was released, he became a trusted Walesa adviser.
When strikes broke out in 1988, Mazowiecki was among those marching with Walesa. The labor unrest brought the Communist government to the negotiating table, and party free elections in June of 1989 gave Solidarity a large bloc of seats in Parliament.
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, who was the head of the Communist government at the time, asked Walesa to submit three candidates for post of prime minister. He chose Mazowiecki.
Jaruzelski was quoted by The Associated Press as saying he “appreciated Premier Mazowiecki’s wisdom,
moderation and presence of mind in assessing difficult situations, and his stubborn insistence on things that he considered to be key.”
“He was prime minister at a very difficult time,” Jaruzelski said. “It required a lot of wisdom and tact to lead Poland through the great reforms.”
Funeral services will be held Nov. 3 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. Mazowiecki will be buried in his family’s grave in the town of Laski.
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