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Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland's Political Star


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paying his respects at Mazowiecki's gravesite outside Warsaw, Poland. (November 4, 2013.)

Tadeusz Mazowiecki, author and journalist, human rights activist, Solidarity Movement leader, and Poland’s first post-Communist Prime Minister, died in Warsaw on October 28th.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki, author and journalist, human rights activist, Solidarity Movement leader, and Poland’s first post-Communist Prime Minister, died in Warsaw on October 28th.


Mazowiecki was born in 1927 into a family of hereditary nobility. He studied law at Warsaw University but never graduated, and over time became active in various Catholic organizations and publishing houses.

In 1948, he joined Pax, one of the few lay Catholic organizations allowed to function under the Communist regime. Although he openly criticized the Pax leadership for its association with the Communist Party, he nonetheless rose through its ranks, from youth leader to journalist and finally editor-in-chief of the Pax daily newspaper. But he continued to criticize Pax leadership, the organization’s ties to the communist authorities, and lack of democratic procedures within PAX.

So, in 1955, he was expelled from Pax, but continued to work for a number of relatively independent periodicals. During this time, he met and befriended Karol Wojtyła, who would later become Pope John Paul II.

Then, in 1957, the Communist leadership allowed a small group of Catholic activists to run for Sejm, the Polish Parliament. 12 were elected, including Mazowiecki. These delegates formed the first group in the Sejm that showed some independence from the dictates of the communist regime. And although their seats were largely symbolic, they had a great deal of impact on the Polish citizenry.

In 1980, Mazowiecki joined thousands of workers on strike at the Gdansk Shipyard that grew into the Solidarity Movement, where he met Lech Walesa, later Poland’s first post-Communist President. He was eventually arrested and imprisoned for nearly two years.

When the Communist Party of Poland began to falter in 1988, and started negotiations with Solidarity, Mazowiecki was one of the main architects of an agreement that allowed partially free elections. Solidarity won that first election in 1989, and Tadeusz Mazowiecki became the first non-communist Prime Minister of an Eastern European country in over 40 years.

The United States is saddened by the passing of Tadeusz Mazowiecki. His contributions to freedom and human rights live on today and will never be forgotten. The United States extends its condolences to his family and all those in Poland and around the world who remain inspired by his example.
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