June 4, Poland celebrated the 25th anniversary of elections that made it the
first democratic government behind the Iron Curtain. It was the revolution of
steadfast determination to break the shackles of Soviet style domination.
of a whole nation led by an unemployed shipyard electrician and the inspiration
of a Polish Pope created an immutable force to rid itself of oppression without
weapons or bloodshed. The transformation recognized individual freedoms of man
over the conformity and tyranny of state control.
the 1989 elections, the fledgling democracy faced unprecedented economic
challenges including bankruptcy and rampant inflation. The typical
inefficiencies of a socialistic system where everything was dictated by state
planning and insufferable dependence on socialistic values had Poland
scrambling to transform the nation into a free market of opportunities.
Enthusiasm for newfound freedom outweighed the world’s speculation of economic
disaster for Poland.
just a quarter of a century later, Poland is indisputably the most successful
economy in Europe as evidenced by not having even one down year and avoiding
recession through the recent economic meltdown.
interruption since 1992 Poland's GDP has more than doubled and exports
increased 20 fold. Per capita purchasing power is catching up to other EU
countries that had decades more of economic freedom. The World Bank now
classifies Poland as a high-income economy with more than 80 per cent of Poles
completely satisfied with their lives, up from less than half at the beginning
through the darkest days of “shock therapy” (referring to the sudden release of
price and currency controls, withdrawal of state subsidies, immediate trade
liberalization and previously public-owned assets becoming privatized) Poland
kept its eye on adopting Western style institutions, laws and social norms that
had made America rich and successful during its heyday.
has rightfully placed great emphasis on education. Today, more than half of
young adults pass through university level studies, which is above the American
and EU average. Under communism less than 10 per cent had an opportunity to
peruse higher degrees. A study of literacy among 15-year-olds in 65 countries
around the world measured by The Program for International Student Assessment
shows young Poles beating most western European peers even though spending on
education is less than half in other countries.
of Americas gilded age Polish entrepreneurship has flourished. Gone are the 50
years of shortages and dreaded kolejka (queue) to purchase the most menial
things like toilet paper.
Today's top Polish entrepreneurs are all self-made
men not born into riches having first hand knowledge of consumers thirsty for
products and services unavailable during the communist era.
has become the beacon of economic stability. The IMF has predicted Poland will
grow more than twice as fast as Germany thus announcing the arrival of Poland's
modern golden age.
the birth of America 240 years ago, Poland's success story attests to the
strength of human aspirations for Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Obama graciously attended the 25th anniversary celebration in
Warszawa giving a speech that was well received by the Polish people promising
unwavering commitment to Poland's security. However, on his previous visit to
Poland Lech Wąłesa declined to meet with our President saying in effect,
“America seems to be on the road Poland struggled so hard to get off.”
Roads to Freedom Museum in Gdańsk operated by the Remembrance Institute
certainly illustrates with historically accurate documentation the differences
between ideologies and roads taken. On this 25th anniversary it is
not so difficult to forget the hardships of the past when the present has
provided so much increasing affluence to the Polish people making the museum a
valuable national treasure.