Former Polish president, Solidarity leader Walesa has COVID

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WARSAW, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and Solidarity trade union leader who played a leading role in the fall of Communism, has the coronavirus, he said on Friday.

Originally a shipyard electrician in the northern port city of Gdansk, Walesa became a symbol of the historic changes that ended the Cold War, leading the Solidarity trade union movement which brought about the switch to a free-market economy in 1989.

"I can't believe it ... I am infected," the 78-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate wrote on Facebook.

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Walesa said he had received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine, but that despite this he was feeling very ill, suffering from a headache and unable to warm up his body.

"I feel my flesh tearing away from the bone... I can't feel my own body," he wrote.

Walesa's spokesman said he was at home. He said the former president had been at his office earlier in the day but took a COVID-19 test after feeling unwell.

Walesa has suffered from ill health in recent years and underwent a heart operation in 2021.

He served as president from 1990 to 1995, the first leader of post-Communist Poland.

In recent years he was a staunch critic of Poland's ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS), who in turn have been deeply critical of the transition from Communism to a free-market economy that Walesa led.

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Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Koper, Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis

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