MANLIUS — Sheila L. Heth met Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland, a Polish hero and an international symbol of the pursuit of freedom and democracy, while on a two-week trip through the Baltic Sea countries.
Walesa was a worker in Gdansk’s Lenin Shipyard where he became a worldwide symbol of resistance against communism during the shipyard workers strike in 1980 and the establishment of the Solidarity labor movement. Despite winning the right to form an independent union, Walesa and Solidarity were forced to continue their struggle against a Soviet-backed regime. He was jailed in 1981 and released in 1982.
Walesa’s courage was recognized when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1983. He was the president of Poland from 1990-1995. President Ronald Reagan awarded Walesa the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he became the first non-head of state to address a joint session of the United States Congress.
Heth visited Poland, Copenhagen, Norway, Finland, Sweden, St. Petersburg and Estonia. Heth is from Princeton and is the Bureau Valley High School art instructor.