Lech Walesa

Acceptance Speech

As the Laureate was unable to be present on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1983, the acceptance was read by Mrs Danuta Walesa


Your Majesty, Honourable Representatives of the Norwegian people,

You are aware of the reasons why I could not come to your Capital city and receive personally this distinguished prize. On that solemn day my place is among those with whom I have grown and to whom I belong – the workers of Gdansk.

Let my words convey to you the joy and the never extinguished hope of the millions of my brothers – the millions of working people in factories and offices, associated in the union whose very name expresses one of the noblest aspirations of humanity. Today all of them, like myself, feel greatly honoured by the prize.

With deep sorrow I think of those who paid with their lives for the loyalty to “Solidarity”; of those who are behind prison bars and who are victims of repressions. I think of all those with whom I have travelled the same road and with whom I shared the trials and tribulations of our time.

For the first time a Pole has been awarded a prize which Alfred Nobel founded for activities towards bringing the nations of the world closer together. The most ardent hopes of my compatriots are linked with this idea – in spite of the violence, cruelty and brutality which characterise the conflicts splitting the present-day world.

We desire peace – and that is why we have never resorted to physical force. We crave for justice – and that is why we are so persistent in the struggle for our rights, We seek freedom of convictions – and that is why we have never attempted to enslave man’s conscience nor shall we ever attempt to do so.

We are fighting for the right of the working people to association and for the dignity of human labour. We respect the dignity and the rights of every man and every nation. The path to a brighter future of the world leads through honest reconciliation of the conflicting interests and not through hatred and bloodshed. To follow that path means to enhance the moral power of the all-embracing idea of human solidarity.

I feel happy and proud that over the past few years this idea has been so closely connected with the name of my homeland.

In 1905, when Poland did not appear on the map of Europe, Henryk Sienkiewicz said when receiving the Nobel prize for literature: “She was pronounced dead – yet here is a proof that She lives on; She was declared incapable to think and to work – and here is proof to the contrary; She was pronounced defeated – and here is proof that She is victorious”.

Today nobody claims that Poland is dead. But the words have acquired a new meaning.

May I express to you – the illustrious representatives of the Norwegian people – my most profound gratitude for confirming the vitality and strength of our idea by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the chairman of “Solidarity”.

* Read by Mrs Danuta Walesa

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1981-1990, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1983

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