WARSAW, Poland – Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died Saturday in a plane crash in Russia, was a one-time anti-communist activist who teamed up with his twin brother to take his country in a nationalist, conservative direction.
Kaczynski, 60, pursued a strongly pro-U.S. line in foreign relations, in accordance with a cross-party consensus that has grown in Poland since the fall of communism. However, the prickly nationalism of Kaczynski and his identical twin brother, Jaroslaw – who served for a time as prime minister and is now opposition leader – sometimes complicated ties with European neighbors and Russia.
Kaczynski first rose to fame as a child star alongside his twin in a hit movie in 1962, “Two Who Stole the Moon.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, the brothers were activists in the anti-communist opposition and served as advisers to Solidarity founder Lech Walesa.
Kaczynski supported Walesa’s presidential bid in 1990 and became the chief presidential adviser on security issues. His cooperation with Walesa later ended in acrimony over political differences.
Kaczynski became mayor of Warsaw in 2001 and won respect for a no-nonsense style and plain-speaking reputation.
His opponents, however, viewed him as narrow-minded, provincial and overzealous in his drive to cleanse the country of the influence of former communists.
Kaczynski was killed along with his wife, Maria, an economist. He is survived by daughter Marta; two granddaughters; his twin brother; and his mother, Jadwiga.