Gdansk

An Irishman Remembered

For centuries Gdansk/Danzig was probably the most cosmopolitan city in this part of the world. As is documented elsewhere in this guide over the years, strong traditions developed here from the three native populations - German, Polish, Kashubian – while at the same time peoples from further afield left their mark amongst them Scandinavians and Scots. A little known story came to light during 2010 when a room in what is now the town hall was renamed in honour of an Irishman who played an important role in the politics of inter-war Gdansk but had been largely forgotten by both the Irish and Poland.

Sean Lester (1888-1959)

Born in Country Antrim in Ireland in 1888, the son of a grocer, Sean Lester was the rather unusual combination of a Protestant Republican in his younger years becoming a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). After the war of Irish Independence (1919-1921) Lester became a member of the government of the newly-born Irish Free State joining the Department of External Affairs in 1923. Posted to Geneva to represent the Irish Free State at the League of Nations (the forerunner of today’s United Nations), Lester quickly impressed the League with his diplomatic abilities, where he was recognized as a strong character, capable of understanding various points of view and negotiating settlements, a talent he demonstrated in bringing the resolution to two wars in South America. This brought him to the attention of the Secretariat who had an urgent need of someone to fill one of their most challenging posts – that of High Commissioner to the League of Nations controlled Free City of Danzig (Freistadt Danzig).

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