GDANSK – It was difficult to know whether Lech Walesa was cynical, joking or dead serious. Maybe all of the above.
His direct approach to, and simplistic views of, a complicated international reality can embarrass the listener. Nevertheless, it is clear that the former president of the Polish Republic – a Nobel Prize laureate, who co-founded Solidarity, contributed to the collapse of the Soviet bloc and became an icon of liberty and freedom – can allow himself to be his country’s enfant terrible. And it seems that he enjoys this position.
His answers to our questions solidified his image as an ardent Catholic and a conservative homophobe who opposes the absorption of immigrants, doesn’t appreciate US President Barack Obama and has an amusing solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
We – a group of Israeli journalists – met him earlier this month in his office at the European Solidarity Center and found him in a good mood.
Resembling the hull of a ship, the impressive and moving museum and learning center stands out for its uncommon use of Corten steel, which has a rustlike appearance. The building is located where the gate to Gdansk’s Lenin Shipyards once stood, the gate over which, in 1980,Walesa, then an unknown electrician, climbed to declare a workers strike. The rest is history.