We were supposed to hold a meeting of the free trade unions at 6 or 7 p.m. in the shipyard. I was unemployed because I had been fired from my job. When I looked out of the window of my apartment, I saw a white Fiat that I knew belonged to the secret police. I knew them well, since they'd been following me for a couple of years. It didn't seem I had any chance of making it to the shipyard. But I had promised I would be there. I managed to board a tram. The white Fiat drove alongside it. Previously, one of the secret policemen would usually get into the tram with me and the other one would follow by car. But this time both were in the car. I got off near the central train station, thinking this would be the best place to lose them. And I must have lost them. I walked to the main shipyard gate. I had a forged pass, but the controls were tight, so I didn't try to get in. I knew by then that something was happening. I had to get inside. I didn't see any secret police nearby, so I jumped over the fence close to another gate. The shipyard director was standing on an excavator or a trailer and was trying to soften up the workers. He was telling those kids: "Go back to work: we'll settle everything." And they were starting to lose heart. Fate brought me there at a crucial moment. I spoke up. "Do you remember me?" I asked. "Do you remember why you fired me? We're setting up committees, gentlemen--we're striking!" I knew you had to be determined, because some of those young kids were scared.
I had been in charge of the unsuccessful strike in 1970. I knew that it was important to keep as many people as possible in the plant and get them organized--and to start fighting. I had a premonition that this could be the beginning of something bigger. The demands were to get [fired co-worker Anna] Walentynowicz and me our jobs back, and to get wage increases because everyone was badly off. But our primary goal was free trade unions. We couldn't demand that right away; we had to put forward our demands in doses. I was thinking the way a revolutionary would: you add certain goals as the struggle progresses.
When they were locking me up [after martial law was declared on Dec. 13, 1981], I told [Gdansk party leader] Fiszbach, who'd come with the riot police: "You've lost. This is the last nail in your coffin." At the time I was in a kind of trance because I had so completely dedicated myself to the cause. We had thought that communism was stronger. But we put up an exceptional fight. I believed in victory. There was never any fear.
My arrival at the castle was full of surprises. I was studying the topography of the hall where my [presidential] office was located, when I realized that there had to be two more rooms. I didn't know what was in them. I started to break in, and as it turned out, the two rooms contained the supersecret teleprinter of the Warsaw Pact [the Soviet-led military alliance]. It was an immense machine that occupied both rooms and was enclosed in cages. I asked to be let inside to use the machine. Some secret-service colonels unlocked everything and set the gigantic machine in motion. I sent a message to [Mikhail] Gorbachev thanking him for congratulating me on my election as president. After some time, I received a message from [KGB chief Vladimir] Kryuchkov saying he was impressed by how quickly I discovered their machine.