Solidarity's birthplace consigned to history

The Gdansk shipyard, the birthplace of communist Eastern Europe's first independent trade union, yesterday fell victim to the very forces it helped to unleash when its last 3,800 employees were told they had been axed.

There was bitterness and regret at the news. "It took my breath away when we were told we had all been fired," said Roman Galezowski, who has been building ship hulls for 19 years at Gdansk.

The shipyard shot to prominence in 1980 when it succeeded in forcing the then-ruling Communists to recognise the Solidarity trade union under the leadership of Lech Walesa.

Paradoxically, the introduction of a free market in Poland signalled the death knell for the over-manned and uncompetitive Gdansk yard.