Communist Poland Reality Tour

by Mike on September 30, 2007

in Culture,Europe

I consider myself lucky beyond the belief that I had the opportunity to visit Poland four years ago. While there, a group of my friends and I stayed with one of group member’s friend’s apartment in Gdansk. This gave us the opportunity to see Gdansk and the nearby town of Gdynia from a relatively non-tourist perspective. What struck me at the time was the Poles’ warmth, hospitality, good cheer, pro-American worldview, and pride in having resisted centuries of tragedy including partition, Nazi occupation, and Communist oppression. Although I had a great time every moment while I was there, one trip in particular still stands out in my memory today.

One afternoon, we all made a trip to the Solidarity Museum at the old Lenin shipyards. This museum featured several exhibits on how the Soviet-backed Communists used heavy-handed military force and relentless propaganda to impose their failed system on an unwilling and fiercely resistant population. Also prominently featured were exhibits depicting the disastrous economic results of Communism in Poland.

Having some knowledge of the evils and ineffectiveness of Communism, the museum made a powerful impression on me; however, that impression paled in comparison to the one left by our Polish friends while leading us through the museum and their beautiful city. As visitors are wont to do in a museum setting, the Americans in our group (myself included) would often look at an exhibit and then move on to the next. Several times, our Polish friends stopped us from doing this because they were so determined to make sure that we understood that life under Communism was as awful as the exhibits made it out to be.

For example, at one point we were standing in a replica of a Communist-era Polish market. Sitting in the market were empty food displays, a couple inedible loaves of bread, and several bottles of ammonia. We looked around, made our way out and were stopped. Our friends adamantly explained that this “market” was exactly how shopping was during that time and they did not allow us to leave the room until they were convinced that we understood just how awful it was. If the Americans in our group weren’t all Reaganites, I reckon I would still be on the Baltic Coast.

Perhaps it’s because I was so fortunate four year ago, but I’m always happy when I stumble across stories like this one, which seem to pop up all the time. It’s clear that the Poles haven’t forgotten their past and remain committed to telling their story to anyone willing to listen. When it comes to that country, I’m all ears.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: