Former Polish president Walesa is in hospital with an infection

Rally in support of Poland's membership in the European Union, in Gdansk

WARSAW (Reuters) - Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and Solidarity trade union leader who played a leading role in the fall of Communism, is in hospital with an infection and will remain there for at least a week, his spokesman said on Monday.

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.

Walesa posted a photo of himself lying in a hospital bed on Facebook on Sunday with a caption saying "It happens".

A spokesman for the 78-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate told Reuters Walesa had an infection and would stay in hospital this week, but declined to provide any more information.

Walesa went through a COVID infection in January. He 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.

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; editing by Philippa Fletcher)