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Wałęsa's old home

Before Lech Walesa was thrust into the limelight and into the history books from the beginning of the 1980s, he lived like most of his co-workers in one of the huge housing developments which were built up around the city. While the picture of a grey socialist tower block may not be most people’s idea of a desirable residence, to have your own flat in Zaspa and similar developments were long-term ambitions for most Poles. Waiting lists are reputed to have been 20 years and most Poles shared flats with parents and grandparents due to the housing shortage. Those lucky enough to have their own flat were either employed in particular jobs such as government or heavy industry or were able to ‘oil the wheels’ of the system with the all powerful chairman of the area housing committee. Walesa and his family, which eventually grew to eight children, lived at (E-3) ul.Pilotów 17d/3. He only managed to get that flat in December 1980 after the strikes. As an unemployed electrician in the years leading up to the August strikes, life must have been incredibly tough for he and his family. Walesa’s flat wasn’t a typical worker’s flat though. The local housing committee combined three normal flats to create a ‘super flat’ for Walesa and his growing brood. The flat still exists in this form today with another large family living there. This flat played particular importance as a rallying point for supporters and on special days such as the labour day holiday on May 1, supporters and units of armed militia would all be present under the family’s first floor window. From this flat Walesa went on to become a political prisoner during martial law, a Nobel laureate and a confidente of the Pope amongst other things. He stayed here until August 23, 1988 and went on to live in the Presidential Palace from 1990 -1995 as well as his new permanent residence on (E-2) ul. Polanki in Oliwa.

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