Poland's borders were redrawn after World War II ended in 1945. Its new borders gave it a long seacoast and access to coal in Silesia. But the nation was thoroughly devastated by the long war.
After 1945, Communist economic policies—such as heavy industry and collectivized agriculture—were implemented. Poland did not participate in the Marshall Plan, and postwar reparations from Germany were not large enough to make a difference. Economic progress was minimal from 1945-1970.
The period from 1970 to 1980 is known as the Gierek decade. Attempts were made to modernize the economy and raise living standards by attracting foreign investment. Huge budget deficits hampered progress, however.
The 1980s were a period of great change. A charismatic Polish pope had visited and electrified the country. Solidarity emerged. The economy stagnated. Mikhail Gorbachev brought vast changes to the Soviet Union and its allies.
By 1990, the Communists were out of power, and massive economic changes were put into action. A new free-market system was largely successful, and the country enjoyed the highest economic growth in Europe. Poland joined the EU. But not all segments of the population benefited from the remarkable progress. In 2008, a severe global recession occurred, but Poland's economy weathered it better than most other nations.
Poland's transition from a communist to a free-market country was largely successful, but it was not painless.