(Editor's note: After 72 years (1918-90) communism as new idea in Europe was given a second hard look. In mid-1991 the USSR had ceased to exist. Earlier the Berlin Wall fell and an electrician was freely elected president of Poland.)
LAST week President Bush traveled to Europe (Russia, Italy and France) to meet the world leaders and return the visit of old allies.
Mr. Bush was seen on world TV embracing and praising Vladimir Putin (the same first name as Lenin). At the NATO council meeting Putin also heaped praises on the world leaders. Russia had applied for membership in the NATO Club. In 1955, the USSR-dominated Warsaw Pact was signed. Theoretically, the Warsaw Treaty was initiated as a response to West Germany joining NATO in the same year.
Communism as a 20th century experiment in Europe lasted a full 72 years in the USSR - 1918 to 1990 - before it breathed its last.
A full decade before 1990 a strike at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, Poland (on the Baltic Sea) had spread to other industries in August 1980.
The economically hardpressed communist government had accepted, for the first time in a Marxist state, the right of workers to organize independent unions.
From electrician to president
Lech Walesa, an electrician, founded a free union (Solidarity) that launched the workers' drive for liberty and improved working conditions.
Poland is 95 percent Catholic - about 75 percent are practicing members - all fiercely loyal to the Polish Pope John Paul II (born Karol Wojtyla, 1920). The Pope's visit to Poland in 1979 set the stage for the unusual events of the 1980s.
Solidarity members won a stunning victory in the 1989 elections: 99 of 100 Senate seats and 299 of 460 seats in the lower House (Sejm). The Communist Party in Poland voted to disband on Jan. 28, 1990.
In the 1990 presidential election, Lech Walesa was elected with 74 percent of the vote.
Poland has a border with then East Germany and Berlin is near this eastern boundary. (In March 1946, Churchill spoke of an iron curtain that separated eastern from western Europe from "the Baltic to the Adriatic.")
In the 1970s and 1980s, the East Germans had become the poorer kin or cousins in the German family. On TV East Germans noted how the West Germans were smartly dressed, driving shiny Mercedes cars and riding on new and airconditioned buses and trains.
Exodus and the Wall
While enjoying prestige within the Eastern bloc as an industrial power East German emigrants to West Germany told a different story. East Germans started leaving their "country" in hordes and their government responded by building the infamous Berlin Wall in 1961. The wall became a visible sign of both economic and political failure, but the emigration from east to west dropped to a trickle.
In the fall of 1989, East Germans, by the tens of thousands, fled to West Germany through Hungary and …