Donald Tusk was born on 22 April 1957 in Gdańsk, Poland. His father worked as a carpenter on the railway, his mother as a secretary at a hospital. When Tusk was 14 years old, his father died.
In 1976 he started studying history at Gdańsk University, where he became involved in illegal activities against the Communist regime. At the time he cooperated inter alia with the underground Free Trade Unions and met the future Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa.
In 1980 Donald Tusk founded an Independent Students’ Association, NZS, which was part of the ‘Solidarity’ movement. He became the leader of ‘Solidarity’ at his place of work and a journalist on a newspaper published by ‘Solidarity’.
After martial law was imposed in December 1981 by General Jaruzelski, he remained in hiding for some time. He then worked as a bread seller and later, between 1984 and 1989, he earned his living as a manual labourer specialising in work at high altitudes with the aid of climbing equipment.
At the same time he was an activist in the underground Solidarity movement. After being arrested for a short time, he was set free following an amnesty for political prisoners announced by General Jaruzelski.
In 1983, Donald Tusk founded an illegal monthly ‘Political Review’, propagating economic liberalism and rules of liberal democracy. An informal think-tank supporting Lech Wałęsa was centred around the periodical. After the collapse of communism, think-tank members known as ‘Gdańsk liberals’ formed a government after the first free presidential elections in Poland.
Simultaneously they founded the first pro-business and pro-Europe party in Poland, the Liberal Democratic Congress, with Donald Tusk as its leader. He was also responsible for de-monopolising and privatising the former communist state-owned press concern.
In the 1990s, Donald Tusk was a Member of Parliament, inter alia deputy Speaker of the Senate.
In the same years he published a series of books on the history of Gdańsk, some of which turned out to be bestsellers.
In 2001, Donald Tusk was one of the initiators of the new centrist party called the Civic Platform and in 2003 he became its leader.
In 2007, after a tough campaign he defeated the ruling rightist party and became Prime Minister. He was in office for seven years, which made him the longest-serving Prime Minister in democratic Poland, and the first one to be re-elected.
During his seven-year term, Poland continued to maintain economic growth, and in the time of crisis the Polish economy grew by almost 20%, a record performance in Europe.
In 2014, Donald Tusk was elected to the position of President of the European Council and in 2017 re-elected for the second mandate of 2.5 years.