Topics of coins

Lech Kaczyński. It is Worth Being a Pole

Lech Kaczyński was born on 18 June 1949 in Warsaw to a family of intellectuals with powerful patriotic traditions. Having earned a law degree at the University of Warsaw, he moved to Sopot in 1971 and began scientific work at the University of Gdańsk. He specialised in labour law. In 1980, he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, and in 1990 he finished his habilitation. In 1996, he was appointed Associate Professor.

In the second half of the 1970s, he joined the circle of the founders of the Free Trade Unions (Wolne Związki Zawodowe). He would teach workers about labour law at secret meetings and write for the underground magazine “Robotnik Wybrzeża” (“Worker of the Coast”). At that time, he met his future wife, Maria Helena née Mackiewicz. They got married in 1978.

During the August strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard, he became one of the advisers to the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee. He co-edited the provisions of the statute of the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarity” (“Solidarność”), headed the Intervention Bureau of the Gdańsk Inter-Enterprise Founding Committee, and was a member of the regional management of “Solidarity” in the Gdańsk Region. During martial law, he was held in the internment camp in Strzebielinek for nearly a year. He co-organised the strikes in May and August 1988 in the Gdańsk Shipyard, thus paving the way for the legalisation of the union.

In the elections held in June 1989, he won a seat in the Senate. At the same time, acting as First Deputy Chairman of “Solidarity”, he actually managed the union while Lech Wałęsa was engaged in his presidential election campaign. Lech Kaczyński came into the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland as Minister of State for National Security. He left the Chancellery as a result of a sharp disagreement with the President. From February 1992 to June 1995, he served as President of the Supreme Audit Office.

As Minister of Justice appointed in June 2000 in the government formed by the „Solidarity” Electoral Action, Lech Kaczyński gained massive public support for the vigorous fight he led against organised crime and corruption. A year later, he was appointed the first chairman of the newly-formed party – Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość). In the autumn of 2002, he was elected Mayor of Warsaw. His efforts led to the opening of the Warsaw Rising Museum on 1 August 2004, the beginning of the construction of the “Copernicus” Science Centre, and most of all to the reduction of the endemic corruption in the public procurement in the city.

These successes gave him victory in his run for the presidency in October 2005. Faced with Russia’s imperial influence rebuilding quickly under Vladimir Putin’s rule, he sought to form an axis of energy cooperation that would free Eastern Europe from gas blackmail. He initiated a diplomatic action that saved Georgia as Russian tanks were approaching Tbilisi. He kept particularly good relations with Poland’s immediate neighbours – Lithuania and the Czech Republic. He also strove to maintain strategic relations with Ukraine.

Lech Kaczyński pursued a consistent, historically-oriented policy that was aimed at reminding new Polish generations about national pride and respect for the forgotten heroes of the fight for freedom of the Republic of Poland. He awarded the Order of the White Eagle to such distinguished figures as Archbishop Ignacy Tokarczuk, Andrzej Gwiazda, and Anna Walentynowicz. He decorated Zbigniew Herbert, Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki, and General August Emil “Nil” Fieldorf posthumously. He initiated the establishment of the National Day of Remembrance of Accursed Soldiers. He wished to commemorate the heroic sacrifice of the Polish soldiers murdered in Katyń on the 70th anniversary of the crime. Together with 95 other people on board the presidential plane, including his wife Maria, he died when the plane crashed on its approach to landing at the Smolensk airport on 10 April 2010. The mortal remains of the Presidential Couple were buried in a crypt at Wawel Castle next to the grave of Marshal Józef Piłsudski.

Prof. Andrzej Nowak