In 1962 John Kowalczyk emigrated to the United States from Poland, fleeing Communist rule. He returns to his homeland today a quiet hero: determined to transform a monument to Communism into an international center of capitalism.

His target? The Josef Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, in Warsaw, given as a gift from the Soviet leader himself. Kowalczyk, president of the Virginia contracting firm The Jonathan Corp., has convinced the new democratic government to let him renovate the dilapidated 42-story palace.

For a man whose father was thrown in prison for his anti-Communist rumblings 40 years ago, this project is a personal victory. "To the Poles the palace symbolizes years of bondage. [This makeover] is equivalent to the Berlin Wall coming down." What once stood as a shimmering testament to Communism will become a mecca for more than 100 free-market enterprises.

-- Elizabeth Conlin