WARSAW (Reuters) - The wife of Nobel prize-winning Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa describes the loneliness and domestic grind she faced as her husband rose to power in a frank biography that is causing a stir in the country even before its official release.
Danuta Walesa, now 62, was Poland’s first lady from 1990 to 1995 when Lech Walesa served as the country’s first democratically elected president. He won international acclaim when his Solidarity trade union movement led the fight to topple communism in Poland in 1989.
But behind the scenes, Danuta faced a daily struggle to bring up their eight children, according to excerpts from her first biography “Dreams and Secrets” obtained by Reuters on Tuesday and due out on Wednesday.
“We had crowds of labor union members, advisers, politicians, journalists and lunatics pouring into our apartment from dawn until late at night,” she writes. “Complete chaos instead of a normal home.”
Danuta says that during Solidarity’s hey-day their apartment was constantly under repair, that even when pregnant she was left to care for their children, do the cleaning and cook for everyone, including the constant stream of visitors.
“I was a mother, a teacher, a cook, a cleaning lady, a nurse, I had no time to do anything else,” she said.
In the book she said she found it harder and harder until she finally broke.
“My initial powerlessness turned into a rebellion. This opposition grew in me until I exploded. Psychologically, I simply could not take this burden anymore,” the 550-page book reads.
Danuta Walesa was born to a deeply Catholic family in a small village in eastern Poland and later moved to the coastal city of Gdansk, the cradle of the Solidarity movement, where she worked in a florist shop and met her future husband.
Nearly two decades after they first met, she traveled to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Lech Walesa’s behalf in 1983. At the time, they feared Poland’s Communist authorities would not let Walesa back into the country if he left to collect the award himself.
She also describes how her husband made many key decisions, including deciding to run for Poland’s presidency in 1990, on his own, without taking her needs into consideration.
“I wonder, if men’s mind-sets come down to such a narrow focus on their own matters, that they don’t see another person around? So when I say I was not being noticed as a woman, as a partner, I mean this type of situation and others.”
Danuta, who worked on the book over the past two years, also said she and Lech now live largely separate lives.
Lech Walesa has admitted to neglecting his family during his political career and said this week that he has not yet read the book, but plans to buy his wife some flowers.
“My wife has told no lies, but you have to put everything into context...separate private from public,” the 68-year-old former president told the Polish edition of Newsweek magazine. “In politics, when I was tapped, when I had to make speedy decisions on my own, I had no time for consultations, even with my wife.”
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Paul Casciato