Negotiations between the Polish authorities and the Roman Catholic Church have progressed to a point where Lech Walesa could very shortly be transferred from his detention in remotest southeast Poland to a new location nearer home and family here.
In a Monitor interview his wife, Danuta, drew a painful picture of the isolation to which her husband has been confined. She and their seven children recently spent 51/2 weeks with him.
''He is well and, as always, full of optimism,'' she said, ''but for a man used to city life and the bustle and activity of a shipyard, the isolation is extremely difficult to endure.
''We went for walks, of course. But it's just forest after forest and so quiet and, though during our stay we were able to follow a private family life, the consciousness of being under guard was always in the air. For him it is like being in slavery.''
The move to a new location could be sanctioned before the end of the month, if there are no more serious disorders like the protests against martial law that erupted here and in several other Polish cities Aug. 13.
The authorities are obviously apprehensive, for this second half of August is the second anniversary of the protests and strikes that ended in historic agreement between the government and workers in all the Baltic ports promising major reform throughout Polish life.
The nervousness is doubly apparent in this shipyard city where Lech Walesa and his strike coordinating committee brought the new, independent union Solidarity into being two years ago this month. The workforce here remains one of Solidarity's two or three most resolute centers in demanding that its suspension be lifted.
Mr. Walesa was moved from his previous internment near Warsaw to a thickly forested estate at Arlamow in early May. East of the ancient Polish town of Przemsyl and a few miles from the Russian border, it is more than 500 miles from Gdansk.
Assuming successful conclusion of the negotiations -- and the Catholic Church seems confident except for the one proviso mentioned -- he will be brought to a villa in the Masurian lake region east of Gdansk. It is less than 100 miles from his home.
Paradoxically, Mrs. Walesa was allowed to see more of her husband at Arlamow than at Otwock, just outside Warsaw. She and the children came home this month after spending almost six weeks, all together for the first time since Walesa's internment began Dec. 13.
''It is a very nice place,'' she said. (It was the spot where former party leaders, including Edward Gierek, liked to entertain visiting foreign leaders who had a taste for hunting.) ''It is very beautiful country.''
But the isolation is compounded because there is no nearby village or community in any meaningful sense of the word to supply things like newspapers. Walesa has books, but newspapers -- and only Communist Party ones at that -- arrive only with the weekly change of guard sent from Warsaw.
There are no telephone calls between husband and wife. Mrs. Walesa does not write letters because they would have to be sent through the government and subject to long delay. Anyway, in such circumstances she prefers not to.
She was reluctant to talk too specifically of her husband's present outlook. ''I cannot speak for him and do not wish to,'' she says, ''and we had the family and did not talk too much about such things.'' But she stoutly defended her husband against charges often made by government spokesmen -- especially by Vice-Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski, who tried to negotiate an agreement with the union last year -- that he is ''inconsistent'' and ''changes his mind from day to day.''
Mrs. Walesa is a quietly courageous woman. She speaks directly, with candor, and looks at the union's problems and its future in a balanced, commonsense way that must surely reflect much of her husband's attitudes. There is no touch of the extremism that contributed -- although perhaps not nearly as much as the government alleges -- to last December's crisis and the imposition of martial law.
She declined to comment on her husband's many differences with the radicals at the union's convention here last fall and thereafter. But, she said, ''he realizes that Solidarity made many mistakes. It wanted to achieve too much, too quickly. He knows that it is necessary to arrive at a compromise and that that means concessions on both sides. Both sides.
''But he must be a party to the dialogue. He wants very much to talk with the authorities. But, in Arlamow they have not once been to see him, and when they visited him at Otwock, nobody talked really seriously with him.
''But it is very unfair to make accusations and speak against him and not allow him to defend himself.''
There is a similar strong feeling of the one-sidedness of public discussion so far and of the dialogue the government professes to seek in the shipyard here just now. An extremely moderate, though firm, statement qualifying Solidarity's future aims -- issued by a representative, clandestine ''enterprise commission'' July 23 -- went totally unnoticed by the official Polish media to whom it was sent.