War II shaped both the image and the views of Poland's final communist leader,
General Wojciech Jaruzelski: Several years of labor as a Soviet prisoner left
his eyes badly damaged, hence the trademark sunglasses, but the idea of
communism appealed to him so much that he soon joined the Soviet-controlled
Polish army. He swiftly rose along the Polish military and political ladders,
becoming Secretary of Defence in 1968. In 1970, Jaruzelski's forces shot dead
over forty protestors amidst public unrest over increased food prices, an
incident that would become a focus of his later-life trials.
Food prices escalated again in 1980, prompting another wave of protests that
led to the formation of the pro-democracy Solidarity trade union, which was led
by mustachioed electrician Lech Wałęsa. By the time Jaruzelski became head of
state in 1981, the movement had ballooned to a membership of about ten million.
On December 13, 1981, Jaruzelski controversially declared martial law in an attempt
to halt Solidarity (claiming in his later years that his decision was a lesser
evil compared to potential Soviet intervention, albeit whether or not that was
at risk of happening is disputed). Everyday life was severely restricted,
necessities were rationed, and many of Solidarity's members, Wałęsa included,
were imprisoned or forced to flee the country.
Martial law initially seemed successful in defeating Solidarity, and it was
lifted a year and a half later. However, Solidarity persevered as an
underground movement. Other factors in the political landscape changed throughout
the decade; reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev took control of the Soviet Union,
and Jaruzelski was quick to align with him (it's worth noting that the two were
the youngest of the time's Eastern Bloc leaders, and were in fact the only ones
seen in this picture
to live to see the new millennium). Pro-democracy protests, technically still
illegal, again became commonplace in Poland in the late 1980s. Jaruzelski made
amends with Solidarity in 1989, and Poland's first democratic elections soon
followed. He soon faded into retirement but later faced trials pertaining to
the 1970 shootings and the 1981 martial law declaration.
Jaruzelski made few appearances in court, however, thanks to a late-life
laundry list of health issues that included pneumonia, lymphoma, heart issues,
pleurisy, and a nosebleed. Though the frequent barrage of non-fatal hospital
trips made Jaruzelski appear indestructible, a stroke he suffered in May 2014
proved to be one ailment too many. He died later that month, and his funeral's
circumstances illustrated how he remains a highly divisive figure in Poland.
Many former adversaries forgave and mourned him (Wałęsa described him as a "great
friend"), while others continued to regard his implementation of martial
law as treachery and protested the Polish government's decision to bury him
with full military honors.
Jaruzelski reached ninety, so Allen Kirshner, Deceased Hose, Drunkasaskunk,
Jefferson Survives, Pat Peeve, Philip, and The Wiz each pick up two points.
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