FRANKFURT – Today’s world is not the stable, post-historical place some had imagined in 1989, when the Iron Curtain fell and communist rule in Eastern Europe came to an end. But, though the events of 1989 did not bring about perpetual peace and prosperity, they did set in motion some true success stories.
One of the most impressive is Poland’s rise as a political and economic heavyweight in Europe. This year’s triple anniversary – 25 years of democracy, 15 years of NATO membership, and ten years of European Union membership – is a source of pride for the Polish people, and rightly so.
Imagine how miraculous Poland’s success is. Here is a country that disappeared from the map of Europe in the eighteenth century and was divided and ruled by imperial occupiers for 150 years. In the twentieth century, Poland was the victim of two inhuman ideologies, fascism and Stalinism. Its golden age was some 500 years ago, and at the beginning of this century many still viewed it as a symbol of backwardness.
But the Polish people struggled and sacrificed to bring about their nation’s rebirth – and in the process ushered in a new era for Europe and the world. The Berlin Wall would not have fallen when and how it did without Poland’s Solidarność movement and its struggle for freedom and human rights.