Wojciech Jaruzelski, Baker’s Apprentice Who Became Poland’s Leader With PM-Poland, Bjt
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Wojciech Jaruzelski will be remembered as the general who imposed martial law to suppress the independent Solidarity movement, but he may also be recalled as the leader of Poland’s shift toward democracy.
Ramrod straight and often seemingly remote behind dark glasses and a brace of military medals, Jaruzelski has presided over two of Poland’s most dramatic and divergent periods.
Born July 6, 1923, to an aristocratic family in an eastern Polish village, Jaruzelski was attending a Catholic boarding school in Warsaw when World War II broke out.
His official biography says he ″stayed in the northeastern territories of the Soviet Union employed as a laborer″ during the war.
But Poles who know the family have said they were caught by the Soviet occupiers and moved to Siberia, where Jaruzelski was a baker’s apprentice and his father felled logs in a labor camp until his death.
In 1943, Jaruzelski entered a Soviet officer training school and then served with the communist-led Polish first army, which formed on Russian territory and advanced with the Red Army against the Nazis.
A member of Poland’s Communist Party since 1947, he was promoted through the military ranks until he was named defense minister in 1968.
In October 1981, as the euphoria and defiance of the Solidarity movement gripped Poland, Jaruzelski was named first secretary of the party - the only career military officer to rise to supreme power in the Soviet bloc.
Two months later, Jaruzelski’s dawn broadcast announced the military had assumed power in Poland amid suggestions the martial law decree was needed to preempt Soviet intervention.
Through the 1980′s, even as restrictions eased, Jaruzelski ruled a dispirited Poland sliding toward economic disaster.
Pressed by labor unrest, severe shortages and a $39 billion foreign debt, communist authorities this year reversed course and suggested talks with the opposition led by Solidarity, which had never faded despite repression.
On June 4, voters in Poland’s most democratic post-war elections delivered a stinging rejection of Jaruzelski’s communist-led coalition.
But the atmosphere of reform has brought Jaruzelski a series of meetings with Western leaders who are moving to resume badly needed investments and loans that were cut off to Poland after martial law.