WARSAW:- Polish freedom icon Lech Walesa Monday hailed legendary film director Andrzej Wajda as “a great man, a great Pole” after he died aged 90, leaving behind a series of acclaimed movies inspired by his country’s turbulent history. Wajda’s first films were marked by the painful experience of World War II and the Polish resistance against the Nazis, who occupied the country for almost six years. “A great man, a great Pole, a great patriot has passed,” Nobel Peace Prize laureate Walesa told AFP Monday, hailing his “great wisdom”.

Then leader of Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity trade union, Walesa appeared in Wajda’s anti-regime film “Czlowiek z Zelaza” (“Man of Iron”), which in 1981 won the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. “We’ve all been shaped by Wajda. We saw Poland and ourselves through him,” tweeted EU President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister and Solidarity dissident. “We understood ourselves better. Now it will be more difficult.” Wajda’s death on Sunday was confirmed to AFP by a family friend, who said Wajda had died in a Warsaw hospital of lung failure after being being in a medically-induced coma for days. Born on March 6, 1926 in Suwalki, northeast Poland, Wajda tried to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a soldier, but was rejected from a military academy in 1939. He later attended Poland’s renowned Lodz film school. His first feature-length film, “Pokolenie” (“A Generation”, 1955), a coming-of-age story of young Poles in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, is considered the debut of a “Polish school of cinema” which delves into heroism and romanticism.