Aleksander Kwasniewski was born on 15 November 1954, in Bialogard, a small village in the western part of Poland. His mother was a devout Christian, and his father was a doctor. In 1979 he married Jolanta Kwasniewska, a practicing Roman Catholic, lawyer, and former real estate business-woman, who is extremely popular as a first lady; in fact, she is so popular that there are calls for her to run for president in 2005 when her husband is no longer eligible. She has been active in campaigning for greater breast cancer awareness and early screening, as well as showing care for AIDS patients. The couple has one daughter.
Kwasniewski is an agnostic, although when Pope John Paul II visited Poland in 1999, he invited Kwasniewski for a ride in the popemobile. He is seen as a particularly European, stylish politician, who dresses in sharp suits and mixes well with heads of state. He is seen as a pragmatic modern man—someone to do business with.
Kwasniewski studied transport economics at the University of Gdansk, but did not complete his degree. In addition to Polish, he speaks Russian, English, German, and French. Kwasniewski joined the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR, the Communist Party of Poland) in 1977. He worked with, and later headed, socialist student organizations (the Socialist Union of Polish Students) in Gdansk in the late 1970s. He worked as editor-in-chief of a weekly Communist youth magazine. Kwasniewski held government posts from 1985 to 1990, including sports minister. He also served as the chairman of the Polish Olympic Committee in the late 1980s. In 1989, he was selected by Communist Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski to participate in the Communist party's roundtable negotiations with Solidarity. After the PZPR dissolved in January 1990, Kwasniewski co-founded the Democratic Left Alliance (Social Democratic Party of the Republic of Poland—SLD), the direct successor to the PZPR.