Poland's Walesa to pay last respects to foe Jaruzelski

Thu May 29, 2014 11:57am EDT
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By Christian Lowe and Marcin Goclowski

WARSAW (Reuters) - Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity movement that overthrew Communist rule in Poland, said on Thursday he will attend a funeral mass for General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Communist leader who had him thrown in jail.

Jaruzelski died on Sunday aged 90 and will be buried on Friday at a military cemetery in Warsaw. While in power, he declared martial law in Poland to put down a pro-democracy uprising before finally stepping aside to allow free elections.

"I will be at the mass," Walesa, 70, told the TVN24 station. He said though he would stay away from the burial ceremony itself because "I can't stand it when they put a person back into the ground."

Explaining his decision to go to the mass, which will take place on Friday before the burial, Walesa said Jaruzelski belonged to a generation which had to survive after Poland came under Soviet domination at the end of World War Two.

Some of them were genuine opponents of democracy, Walesa said, but others tried to undermine Soviet rule from within the Communist system. He said he did not know which group Jaruzelski represented.

Over the past few years, there had already been a tentative rapprochement between the two former enemies.

Walesa, a former shipyard electrician who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in helping bring down the Iron Curtain, visited Jaruzelski in hospital during a bout of ill health in 2011, and the following year visited the general at his home.


Former Polish President and 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa addresses the audience during the opening ceremony of the 13th World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates at Palace of Culture in Warsaw October 21, 2013.  REUTERS/Kacper Pempel