Adam Michnik

Despite repeated imprisonments and attempts to expel him from his country, Adam Michnik never stopped speaking against communist rule in Poland.

Michnik began his human rights work in the 1960s, participating in protests in 1968 that led to his expulsion from the University of Warsaw and a yearlong stint in jail. Despite these setbacks, he kept working to advocate for freedom and human rights, co-founding the Workers’ Defense Committee in 1976. In the midst of repressive government rule, his work was considered so subversive that his lectures had to be given through “Flying University,” an organization that held underground seminars in which activists and intellectuals could congregate and speak freely.

By the 1980s, Michnik had become an important adviser to the Solidarity Trade Union Federation, which bravely opposed the communist stronghold. However, in 1981 the government imposed martial law, forcing a suspension of the organization and imprisoning Michnik twice in the mid-1980s. Despite this, Michnik remained undeterred. He continued his advocacy, and he acted as a negotiator for Solidarity in the Round Table Negotiations in 1989, which brought about the end of communism and allowed democracy to flourish in Poland at last.

Since those talks, Michnik has served in Poland’s Lower House and co-founded the free newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, which continues to be an important voice for democracy in Poland and beyond.