In true fairy tale fashion, a shipyard electrician who led Eastern Europe's first successful anti-communist revolution will move with his wife and eight children from a flat in the grimy Baltic port city of Gdansk to Belvedere, the neoclassical presidential palace in Warsaw.

That is because he is the new president of Poland. Two weeks ago Lech alesa received a scare when Stanislaw Tyminski, a 42-year-old political unknown who spent the past 21 years in Canada and Peru, gave him a strong challenge.The new Polish electoral system had not been sensitive to the possibility of carpetbaggers - upstart politicians who move in and run an overnight campaign for office. Walesa was more psychologically than politically wounded and initially threatened to withdraw from the race even though he was leading the emigre millionaire in the polls.

Fortunately, he learned that democracy often creates strange bedfellows and fought his opponent with political flair, successfully making the accusation stick that Tyminski had disturbing ties with former communist and police operatives.

A 75 percent victory is truly impressive, even by American standards, and gives Walesa the strong hand he desperately needs to deal with overwhelming political and economic problems.

A country plagued with poverty and hunger needs strong leadership, but it will not be easy for the new president to complete the transition from communism to a market economy - the same daunting task that is now facing the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, the symbolism of Walesa's presidency is powerful. As the charismatic leader of the Solidarity movement for 10 years, he represents the rank and file as almost no one else could. He has been in the trenches. He has been in prison.

Immediately after the election, he remained sensitive to that symbol and promised the people he would be their servant, not their president. During a sentimental pilgrimage to his former workplace, the former Lenin shipyard, he promised workers he wouldn't forget that he once wore overalls.

It is important that he not forget if he is to accomplish his objectives of a stronger, healthier Poland in a new era of democracy, economic strength and closer ties to Europe.

It is important that he remain the personification of the undereducated middle child of a dirt-poor peasant family as he fights for a faster privatization of state industry and job guarantees for workers in inefficient industries.

If Walesa lives up to the promise of his Solidarity leadership, his tenure as president could represent the ultimate triumph of the country's democratic forces and the end of a long, dark period of Polish history that began with the Nazi invasion in 1939 and continued for another four decades of communist domination.

The light of freedom is finally shining on Poland.