poland support wales protest.jpg

Former Polish president Lech Walesa received a boost of support Sunday as thousands gathered in the northern city of Gdansk to publicly reject allegations that Walesa was a communist-era informant.

Gdansk was the scene of some of Walesa's earliest victories, in which he led shipworkers in protests under the Solidarity motto that ultimately won enhanced rights for independent labour unions under the communist regime.

The fame that brought him paved the way for his presidency. But ongoing allegations that he worked with communist police have been a stain on his reputation, one that has only grown in recent weeks with the discovery of new secret police documents related to the informant Bolek that allegedly include Walesa's signature.

The allegations have breathed new life into the country's left, which has been fighting the new conservative government since it took office in November. The allegations are seen as an attack against one of the left's - and indeed the country's - greatest heroes.

Walesa's wife, Danuta, spoke on behalf of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient Sunday.

"I want to speak out against the government and the little man who stands behind it," she said, a reference to Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

"He was not imprisoned [during the time of martial law]," she said. "He locked himself up inside his own four walls with his cat. If my husband had not entered into talks with the communists, we would not be standing here today."

Kaczynski has eschewed any official role in the new government, but is widely believed to be the key power behind Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

Kaczynski and Walesa once worked together, but have grown distant since communism collapsed in 1989.

"We thank [Lech Walesa] for our free Poland," said Radomir Szumelda, the regional head of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), which has led the anti-government protests. He said Walesa was a symbol of the country's victory against communism.

"Files and political intrigues will not take this symbol from us," he said.

Henryka Krzywonos, who participated in some of the strikes in 1980, agreed.

"They showed me the signatures of Lech Walesa on TV and none of them was his. Let's not go crazy about this. Lech was not [the informant] Bolek."

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