....for the hundreds of thousands of men and women in Central and Eastern Europe who between 1945 and 1989 and in the face of often bitter discouragement never lost their belief that they would live to see freedom of expression and the rule of law restored to their countries. In Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany - and in other countries also - they fought for those freedoms in many different ways and often at risk to their lives. Although few of their names are remembered their foresight and courage must have been in the minds of many who saw the commemoration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall last Monday. Fortunately at least two of their leaders were able to attend -- Lech Walesa of Poland and Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic -- and were accorded appropriate honour.

But the hero of the occasion was undoubtedly Mikhail Gorbachev who, as President of the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, recognised that the tight controls his country still held over Eastern Europe could not be sustained.

His refusal to order military action against demonstrating crowds in many cities during those tumultuous years was the key to the amazing change that has since taken place.


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