By Lucky Gold, CNN
Imagine a world where a shy, devout intellectual took on an all-seeing, all-powerful leader - and helped create Eastern Europe’s first modern democracy.
Tadeusz Mazowiecki was a journalist and activist when his native Poland was in the iron grip of soviet communism.
When Polish workers struck at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980 launching the solidarity movement, Mazowiecki joined the protests.
He became a trusted advisor to Lech Wałęsa, solidarity's charismatic leader, as the movement forced the communists to relinquish power.
In 1989, an historic parliamentary election gave solidarity seats at the table – and Mazowiecki became Eastern Europe’s first democratic prime minister, flashing a victory sign.
While hard-liners demanded the ouster of all former communists from the new government, Mazowiecki called for a "thick line" to separate its communist past from Poland’s future, allowing some former communist officials to help build the new nation.
After he left office, that same pragmatic humanity sent him to embattled Bosnia in 1992.
As a United Nations human rights envoy, he reported on the atrocities there.
And following the massacre at Srebrenica that killed over 8,000 Muslim men and boys, he resigned in protest, adding his voice to the international outrage that led to western intervention.
Tadeusz Mazowiecki died Monday, a moral compass to the end