Donald Tusk, 48, who witnessed communist violence as a boy

Donald Tusk, the mild-mannered head of the business-friendly Civic Platform party who led Sunday's Polish presidential elections, became interested in politics as a 13-year-old boy when he saw riot police in then-communist Poland opening fire on striking workers.

Tusk, who presents himself as a leader who would unite Poles and guarantee a safe and stable future for the country, was born into a working-class family in the Baltic Sea port city of Gdansk in 1957. In 2001, Tusk was one of the founders of Civic Platform, which entered parliament in elections that year. Tusk became deputy parliament speaker.

In this year's presidential race, he took a clear lead amid talk of reforming the economy by cutting taxes and reducing bureaucracy. He has pledged, if elected president, to veto any law that might lead to an increase in unemployment already the European Union's highest at nearly 18 percent or higher taxes.

Tusk, who presents himself as a calming and uniting force, promises to be a president that Poles can "be proud of" and has written that his experiences in Gdansk gave him the ability to distinguish "good from evil."

He has built up his stature as a political leader with recent visits to the European Parliament, as well as meetings with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoof Scheffer and German conservative leader Angela Merkel.

Tusk retorted that people needed economic freedom to create wealth, but stressed he would also preserve social "solidarity." Tusk is a member of an ethnic Slavic minority known as Kashubians, which is concentrated around Gdansk.

A soccer lover, he married his wife, Malgorzata, when he was a student at the University of Gdansk. They have two children, 23-year old son Michal and 18-year old daughter Katarzyna.

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