. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Broke' Walesa Starts Former Shipyard Job

GDANSK, Poland -- Lech Walesa, claiming poverty after five years as Poland's president, returned Tuesday to his old job as a shipyard electrician. But he didn't do any work.


"I'm without money for living, and it's necessary for me to work,'' said Walesa, wearing a blue shirt, tie and gray suit as he was driven to the Gdansk shipyard in a chauffeured state-owned Mercedes.


His workday began five minutes late, at 6:35 a.m., with a press conference. He visited the shipyard manager to discuss taking a paid vacation next week so he can go on a U.S. lecture tour. Walesa says he has saved up months of vacation that he didn't take during his presidency.


After being photographed at the historic hall where the Solidarity trade union was legalized in a 1980 agreement with the Communists, Walesa's workday was over. He left the shipyard before 9 a.m. and went to breakfast with an old friend.


Shipyard officials said Walesa can't sit down and start repairing battery-powered carts with his old electricians' team until he undergoes an extensive medical checkup and takes a safety course. No one knew exactly when that would happen.


After Walesa, 52, left office in December, a tax authority in Gdansk froze his bank accounts, saying he had failed to pay taxes in 1989 on a $1 million payment from Warner Bros. for the rights to film his life story.


Walesa collected another three months of his presidential salary, 6,484 zlotys ($2,600) per month. That customary "farewell bonus" for high-ranking Polish government officials ran out at the end of March, and Walesa has said he would have to live on help from his three adult sons, and about 650 zlotys ($260) a month from the shipyard electrician's job.


Asked what he would do when parliament approves a pension for him, Walesa told reporters, "I will leave the shipyard."


Walesa said he suspects former communists, now in power in Poland, were trying to humiliate him and harm him financially.


But Aleksander Kwasniewski, the current president and former communist with whom Walesa refuses to appear in public, has said he favors a pension for Walesa "the sooner the better."