Born: March 6, 1926;

Died: October 9, 2016

ANDRZEJ Wajda, who has died aged 90, was an inspirational Polish film-maker whose films were often inspired by his homeland's turbulent history under Communist rule. He became a voice for an audience yearning for freedom and won international recognition and an honorary Oscar.

Though physically frail, Wajda worked until the end of his life. Using a walking aid, he appeared at last month's Film Festival in Gdynia, for the premiere of his latest film Afterimage, based on the life of Polish avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski who was persecuted for refusing to follow the communist party line during the Stalinist era,

Poland's Oscar Commission, which selected the film as Poland's official entry for an Oscar in the best foreign language film category, called the film a touching universal story about the destruction of an individual by a totalitarian system. Wajda said he wanted to warn against state intervention in art.

The director trod on ground controlled by communist-era censors with Man of Marble (1977), which looked at the roots of worker discontent in communist Poland in the 1950s, and Man of Iron (1981) on the rise of the Solidarity union movement, which eventually led to the demise of communism in Poland. That movie featured Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who later became Poland's president.

It won the Cannes Film Festival's top Palme d'Or prize in 1981 and was one of four Wajda movies to be nominated for the best foreign-language Oscar, although Poland's communist leaders unsuccessfully tried to withdraw it from Oscar consideration.

Under martial law in Poland in the early 1980s, Man of Iron was banned and shown only at private and church screenings.

Wajda made more than 40 films in all, but he said 2007's Katyn, in which he turned his spotlight on the 1940 massacre in the Katyn forest and elsewhere of some 22,000 Polish officers by the Soviet secret police, was his most personal movie. His father, Lt Jakub Wajda, was among the victims.

Wajda also noted that he could never have tackled that painful moment in Polish history before the collapse of communist rule in 1989, given that Moscow refused to acknowledge Soviet responsibility and the topic was taboo.

"I never thought I would live to see the moment when Poland would be a free country," Wajda said in 2007.

Wajda was born in the north-eastern Polish town of Suwalki. In 1946 he joined the Fine Arts Academy in Krakow, but quit after three years and moved to the newly opened film school in Lodz - which also trained directors Roman Polanski and the late Krzysztof Kieslowski. Wajda also worked in Germany and France.

His 1955 debut Generation, 1957's Kanal, and Ashes And Diamonds the following year, drew on his generation's experience of surviving the brutal Nazi occupation and then falling under Soviet domination.

Wajda never joined the Communist Party, but his standing abroad protected him from repression. "All my life I was determined to have a kind of independence," he said.

As the conflict between the democratic opposition and the communist regime intensified toward the end of the 1970s, the director wrote in defence of dissidents and later in support of Solidarity. In the 1980s he signed petitions urging free elections and talks between the communist authorities and Solidarity.

In Poland's first free elections in 1989, Wajda was elected to the senate and served for two years.

His film career, however, went into a lull in the early 1990s as he was seeking the right perspective to reflect the radical changes in Poland after the fall of communism, while Hollywood imports became popular and state subsidies dried up.

Wajda considered quitting, but came back in 1998 with the hit Pan Tadeusz, based on a 19th-century Polish epic poem of love and intrigue among the nobility. Nine years later, Katyn was a national catharsis, breaking silence over a tragedy that affected thousands of families in Poland.

National history remained his theme and his 2013 biopic Walesa: Man of Hope, depicted the life of the Nobel Peace Prize winner who founded the free trade union that was pivotal in ending communist rule in Poland.

Wajda is survived by his fourth wife, actress and stage designer Krystyna Zachwatowicz, and his daughter Karolina.