WARSAW, Poland — Former Polish president and anti-communist leader Lech Walesa unveiled a statue of Ronald Reagan on an elegant Warsaw street on Monday, honoring the late U.S. president for inspiring Poland's toppling of communism.
Though Reagan's legacy is mixed in the U.S., across much of central and eastern Europe he is considered the greatest American leader in recent history for challenging the Soviet Union. The moniker he gave it — the "evil empire" — resonated with Poles, who suffered greatly under Moscow.
"I wonder whether today's Poland, Europe and world could look the same without President Reagan," Walesa said. "As a participant in those events, I must say that it's inconceivable."
The 11 1/2-foot bronze statue depicts a smiling Reagan in a historic moment — as he stood at a podium at Berlin's Brandenburg gate in 1987 and said the famous words, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
It sits across from the U.S. Embassy on Aleje Ujazdowskie, a street lined with embassies and manicured parks in the heart of the capital.
"Reagan gave us hope," said Janusz Dorosiewicz, the president of the board of the Ronald Reagan Foundation in Poland.