Dancing in Gdansk

Post-Communist Eastern Europe has had its share of ironies. But few are more poignant than the fate of the Gdansk shipyard, where the seeds of Poland's new democracy were sown by Lech Walesa and his comrades in the Solidarity labor union. The yard is now mothballed, a casualty in the shift to capitalism.

That's irony enough - an icon of freedom unable to compete in a free economy. But now comes news that one of the shipyard's empty production halls, all 21,500 square feet of it, is going to become a disco.

Will the disco make money where the shipyard can't? At least the disco's developer pays regular rent, observed one shipyard manager.

And what does Mr. Walesa think? "It sounds like a bad joke," said the anti-Communist hero and former president. Certainly no one's laughing, least of all the idled shipyard workers. It has to be noted, however, that Poland's overall economy is remarkably healthy. Inefficient, failing industries left over from the old regime - like the shipyard - had to go. What began at Gdansk nearly two decades ago, however, is no failure. Irony aside, that's worth a smile.

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