Lech Walensa to Address Panna Maria on it 150th Anniversary
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
October 21, 2004

All who have served in Precinct Four have had ample opportunity to acquaint with and learn about the wonderful Polish culture that has had such a profound impact on our community.  It is a community that like others contributes to the cross-county relationship.  A great number of citizens in Precinct 4 have a cousin or close friend in Comal, Guadalupe, Wilson, Atascosa or even Karnes County.

This weekend I have the privilege of attending Mass at Our Lady of Cestohowa in Panna Maria in Karnes County.  The honored guest will be Lech Walensa, former President of Poland!  He is there at least in part, due to the fact that Panna Maria is the oldest Polish settlement in America.

 Panna Maria claims distinction as the oldest permanent Polish settlement in America and as the home of the nation's oldest Polish church and school.  In September 1854 the first group of immigrants, which included four of Moczygemba's brothers, traveled by train to Bremen, by ship to Galveston, and by foot and rented Mexican oxcart to San Antonio, to the waiting Father Moczygemba, who escorted them to the site he had chosen for their colony.

On August 14, 1980 Lech Walensa stepped onto the world stage to confront the then Communist Polish rulers during the infamous Lenin Shipyard strike in Gdansk, Poland.  Workers, incensed by an increase in prices set by the Communist government, were demanding the right to organize free and independent trade unions.  At peak tension, everything was on the line with respect to the freedom of the Polish people and all who lived under the bondage of Communism.

Marquette University's website informs us that "Lech Walesa, an electrician who had long been active in the underground labor movement, arrived at the barricaded shipyard just as the dispirited workers were on the verge of abandoning their strike. Scaling the shipyard walls, he delivered a stirring speech from atop a bulldozer. Revitalized by his passion, the strike spread to factories across the nation. Christened "Solidarity," the strike became a social revolution."

"For his heroic efforts, Walesa was named "Man of the Year" by Time magazine, The Financial Times, The London Observer, Die Welt, Die Zeit, L'Express and Le Soir. Over the next 18 months, however, relations between Solidarity and the government became progressively worse until, on Dec. 13, 1981, the Polish government declared martial law. It suspended the activities of all unions and arrested thousands of Solidarity members, including Walesa. In the fall of 1982, the government officially outlawed Solidarity."

"Walesa was released that same fall. Under his leadership, Solidarity continued to exist as an underground organization. Celebrated worldwide as a symbol of the hope for freedom, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. For the next five years, the country became marked more and more by chaos and labor unrest. Acknowledging that it could no longer control the country, the government re-legalized Solidarity and invited it to join the Communist Party in forming a coalition government. In the resulting election, Solidarity won almost every contest."

"Having ended Communist rule and planted the seeds of freedom and democracy in his beloved country, Walesa was ready to take on a new role to serve Poland. On Dec. 9, 1990, he became its first democratically elected President, winning more than 74 percent of the votes cast. His term in office set Poland firmly on the path to becoming a free market democracy."

It is fitting and appropriate that this significant anniversary salute a real hero of worldwide freedom!

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