WARSAW, July 21 -- Former U.S. President George Bush, who is on a two-day private visit to Poland, was awarded one of Poland's highest honors Friday in recognition of his support in helping Poland become a democratic state. Polish President Lech Walesa, who decorated Bush at a ceremony in the presidential palace, praised his understanding of Poles' aspirations to become a free and democratic nation. 'You, Mr. President, were a world leader leader who since the very beginning understood and valued the sense of our fight. You believed in the victory of the values, which are close to each American heart,' Walesa said as he decorated Bush with the Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. Walesa said during the years when the Solidarity labor union was outlawed by the communist regime, Bush's attitude toward Poland's drive for freedom and democracy was great support for those who fought for it. 'Your resolute attitude and willingness to help, gave us strength and courage to continue our struggle against the totalitarian system,' Walesa said. Bush said that for him as vice president and then president, one of the most momentous and inspiring events came in 1989 when the Polish people prevailed againsttyranny by installing the first non-communist government since World War II. 'I accept this Great Cross of the Order of Merit with a big sense of humility for friends do not expect awards for helping friends, and with admiration for the remarkable triumph of the human spirit that today is a free and democratic Poland,' Bush said.
The real heroes, he said, were the Polish people. 'As I saw the Polish people on the streets of Krakow and here in Warsaw, and as I look around this room -- you were the real heroes. Bush also praised Walesa, saying, 'Your life is a living testimony that in the political realm, nothing is impossible.'