The cost of living is too high, Lech Walesa has insisted
Former Polish President Lech Walesa says his retirement income is not quite enough to make ends meet, though it's four times the national average. He once led the Solidarity trade union in its confrontation with the USSR, and served as Poland's president from 1990 to 1995.
Walesa was the guest on the most recent episode of 'Politicians' Kitchen', a video series produced by the tabloid Super Express. He told the presenters, Piotr Lekszycki and Kamil Szewczyki, that he was doing a lecture tour at the age of 79 in order to complement his pension.
"I'm doing this to make some money, because I don't have any," Walesa said. "I don't care about money, I didn't care at all, but it was enough for me, and now it's not enough for me, so I have to make extra money."
He revealed that his pension is 11,000 zloty (approximately $2,640), which the outlet described as "really gigantic" compared to the national average of 2,700 zloty. Walesa noted that the amount had gone up from 5-6,000 about six months ago.
"Now it's a little better, but everything has become more expensive, so it's more or less the same," he said.
As of April 2023, the official year-on-year inflation in Poland was 14.7%, with food going up by almost 20% and energy prices rising 14.8%.
Walesa attributed some of his financial woes to the fact he sometimes chips in to help some of his seven surviving children, three sons and four daughters. "Who has bees, has honey; who has children, has hardship," he told Super Express.
Born in German-occupied Poland in 1943, Walesa became an electrician at the Gdansk shipyard and eventually rose to leadership in the independent trade union Solidarity. The union's political work and collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church - led by the Polish-born Pope John Paul II - are considered crucial to Warsaw's break with socialism in 1989.
Though celebrated internationally, Walesa lost the 1995 election to former Communist cabinet minister Aleksander Kwasniewski. After winning just 1.01% of the vote in 2000, he retired from politics permanently. He also resigned from Solidarity in 2006, amid a feud with brothers Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski, leaders of the Law and Justice (PiS) party that currently runs Poland.