Lech Kaczynski, 60

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, 60; came to power with twin

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, 60, a former anti-communist dissident who came to power with his twin brother in 2005 promising a "moral revolution," died April 10 in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia. His wife, Maria, and Poland's central bank governor, Slawomir Skrzypek, also died in the crash.

Mr. Kaczynski was elected president in October 2005, one month after the Law and Justice party, which he founded with his brother Jaroslaw, won a parliamentary election. Jaroslaw Kaczynski became Poland's prime minister in 2006, giving the identical twins control of both the presidency and the government.

Mr. Kaczynski and his brother took a strongly pro-U.S. stance and supported plans to place a U.S. missile-defense facility in their country. They pledged to stamp out corruption and shake up a system that they considered rife with communist-era officials in control of politics and business.

In 2007, Jaroslaw Kaczynksi was voted out of office in early elections after his governing coalition fell apart. Lech Kaczynski was expected to announce his bid for reelection as president next month, although he was trailing Prime Minister Donald Tusk in early polls.

Lech Kaczynski was born June 18, 1949, and he and his brother achieved fame as child actors in a hit 1962 movie, "Those Two Who Would Steal the Moon," about troublemaking twins who try to get rich by stealing the moon and selling it.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the brothers were activists in the anti-communist opposition and went on to serve as advisers to Solidarity founder Lech Walesa.

Lech Kaczynski, a graduate of the University of Warsaw, received a doctorate in labor law from the University of Gdansk, where he went on to teach.

After Walesa was elected president in 1990, Mr. Kaczynski became his chief adviser on security issues, but their friendship ended over political differences.

Mr. Kaczynski served as Poland's justice minister in 2000-01, and his tough stand on crime laid the foundation for the popularity that would fuel his rise to the presidency. He became mayor of Warsaw in 2001 and won respect for his no-nonsense, plainspoken style.

His opponents, however, viewed him as provincial and overzealous in his drive to cleanse the country of the influence of former communists. Human rights groups also criticized him for trying to stop a gay rights parade through Poland's capital.

Mr. Kaczynski was a friend of Poland's resurgent Jewish community and, in 2008, was the first head of state to attend a religious service at a synagogue in Poland. As mayor, he promoted a planned museum on Jewish history by donating city land to the project.

Survivors include a daughter; his brother and mother; and two granddaughters.

-- From news services and staff reports

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