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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Lech Walesa, the icon of Poland’s struggle for democracy, has said his role as a national hero was paid for with his family life.

Walesa spearheaded Poland’s Solidarity movement in the 1980s and then served as president under democracy from 1990-95. During the presidency he lived in Warsaw, while his wife, Danuta, and their eight children remained home, in Gdansk.

“When I was leaving for Warsaw there was Danka and plenty of children, when I returned I saw her sitting alone in an empty house. I was not prepared for this,” Walesa says in a recently released book of interviews, titled “Ja” (“I.”)

“I am afraid I’ve become a stranger to them,” the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize winner says. “Nothing’s for free. I paid with my family.”

The 74-year-old Walesa now travels around the world to lecture on Poland’s peaceful transition from communism to democracy.