how i survived socialism

The Solidarity period in Poland lasted from August 1980 until December 1981. While it was a period of relative freedom in Poland, it was also one of persistent uncertainty and fear. There was always the possibility that the Soviets would invade, and that with each new governmental concession to the people, eventually, a price would have to be paid. The bill came due on 13 December 1981 when martial law was declared by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who had come to power a month earlier. The Polish phrase ‘stan wojenny’ or ‘state of war’ is a much stronger indication of the realities of the Polish state in this period than the phrase ‘martial law.’ For a time, Polish communications with the rest of the world were totally cut off.”
– Robert Findlay and Halina Filipowicz, “Grotowski’s Laboratory Theatre: Dissolution and Diaspora.” TDR The Drama Review, 30, 3 (T111), Fall 1986: 214.

I grew up in Poland and came to the U.S. in 1994. Since then, I have been trying futilely to explain to my American friends the array of abstruse quirks and habits I acquired during my formative years of living under socialism. Recently, as I have been listening to speculation about the threat of approaching socialism here on U.S. soil, I thought, yes, finally, this is my chance to share my precocious knowledge with all my friends, knowledge that will help them to thrive and survive in the coming years. So, here it goes, the one and only guide to socialism you will ever need! This guide is based on the decade between 1980 and 1990, roughly the time between martial law and the Round Table Talks, right before perestroika took hold of the Eastern Bloc and before the Berlin Wall melted down in the warm sun of glasnost. During that time Poland was bankrupt, with a huge mounting national debt, a failing economy, and worthless currency. It was a time of political unrest, a time of so-called shortages, and the time of my gloriously innocent childhood. . . .

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