European Leaders Mark Fall Of Communism In Poland

KRAKOW, Poland -- Dozens of European leaders and anti- communist icons celebrated the 20th anniversary of Poland's first partly-free elections since World War II. Iconic former Solidarity union leader Lech Walesa was to take part in celebrations in Krakow along with former Czech leader Vaclav Havel.

Poland's former president Lech Walesa gestures as he speaks during a special parliamentary session marking the 20th anniversary of first free parliamentary election that signalled the end of communist role.

The ceremonies were to include German Chancellor Angela Merkel and government leaders from the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Lithuania.

The celebrations were to take place at a royal castle in the heart of Krakow, with a rare ringing of the historic Zygmund's bell.

President Lech Kaczynski - a long-time political rival of the country's prime minister - was to celebrate in the city of Gdansk, which is famous for its Solidarity protests.

A mass was also to be held at the Baltic shipyards in front of a monument to the shipyard workers who died in the struggle against communism.

Later at night Gdansk was to host classic rock stars the Scorpions, pop singer Kylie Minogue and 1980s Polish punk bands reunited for the occasion.

The elections of June 4, 1989 came after tough negotiations on power sharing between communist authorities and union leaders after decades of protests and resistance against the Soviet-backed government.

Many see the day as sparking changes throughout Europe that lead to the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The elections gave a landslide victory to Solidarity with a win of 160 out of 161 open seats in parliament, and 92 out of 100 open seats in the Senate.

Source: DPA

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