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What was it like in 1989+ in Poland when the Soviet house of cards fell?


rybnik 18 | 1,462
24 May 2011  #1
If a similar thread can be found let me know otherwise I'd love to know what were the events surrounding Polands transition from a captive communist soviet ally to a member of the EU.
GrzegorzK
24 May 2011  #2
Conditions in Poland were very bad after communism fell, like hell on earth... you would not want to be there lets just put it that way. There were hardly any jobs, poverty was very high, the environment was polluted from industrial waste and coal power plants, crime was very high there were lots of gangs stealing from people. Compare the worst neighborhoods in America with the worst poverty and crime and put that into a whole country and that is what life was like. Buildings were run down and crumbling. People had just enough money to buy groceries, pay for heat, and go to church, a very simple life. A lot has changed since then. I know because my parents left Poland for American in 81 right before Solidarity, and we took several trips to visit relatives and see the home land.

Very few people had cars, and those that did could not drive hardly anywhere because of fuel costs and lack of gas stations.. most people residing in urban centers had to walk or use tramwaje/trams. Those living in rural areas stayed on their farms and ranches and never left their towns for years because they could not afford to.
Maaarysia
24 May 2011  #3
Compare the worst neighborhoods in America with the worst poverty and crime and put that into a whole country and that is what life was like.

lol. What a gibberish.

I know because my parents left Poland for American in 81 right before Solidarity, and we took several trips to visit relatives and see thehome land.

How old was you back then?

most people residing in urban centers had to walk or use tramwaje.

Many people who live in urban ceters still walk or use streetcars...

Those living in rural areas stayed on their farms and ranches and never left their towns for years because they could not afford to.

GrezgorzK, it's not the first time when you talk nonsense about Poland. It's really funny to read your stuff for a person who actually live in Poland.

I was a small child in 1989. What I remember is that it was kind of greyish on the streets, it could affected little child's imagination that it was not quite safe on the streets that time but my parents say on the contrary.

In that time people were looking for many opportunities in trade, they were trying to buy things cheaper abroad and then resell it or home manufacture something. People were putting little stalls everywhere they could and sell goods. Trade - it was easy money, since people were rave about buying even the ugliest clothes or the stupidest gadgets. I heard about a man who was living of manufacturing... lolipops! - and he made quite a big money out of it!

For me as a child it wasn't a bad time. My family was firm middle class, I had many toys and commodore computer, and virtually I could ask my parents for everything I wanted. So certainly I don't link those times with poverty, rather with kitch ;)

Kids were still playing together on the playground, later (in mid 90s) they dissapeared from streets as the home-sitting lifestyle (tv + computer games) became prevalent. Polonia 1 at the early 90s was a channel which shown many American series from the 80s (MacGyver, The A Team) and Japanese cartoons with Italian dubbing and Polish vioceover leyered on it ;)

Lot's of people were starting business. Because of inflation and privatisation some of the biggests factories were on the verge of bankruptcy. In the 90s those factories were shut down and many people find themselves unemployed without skills to make their way in the capitalism. That was a time when hooligan subculture started to rise. It's funny that when I see footage from 1989 I can say it because it 1991/1992 were lots of garffities on walls (mostly connetced with soccer team supposrters) unlike in 1989.

Mid 90s were notorious of thievery, especially car thievery, gangs were harrasing the reastaurant and club owners. But it's nothing close to Al Capone era.

1994 - Polsat tv channel started to broadcast full time. So we had now almost 6 channels in Polish (4 of TVP, Polonia 1 and Polsat ;). Polsat was kind of revolution back then.

1999/2000 - a rave about Internet. Internet cafes started to pop up like grass after a heavy rain. Most people had a phone modem at home which was quite expensive in use (3 PLN per hour?). Internet cafes weren't really cheaper but at least parents weren't upset seeing a phone bill ;) We all chatted. Internet was used for chat. Cafes were everywhere, literally every few steps, and still another were set up. Each one was crowded by teens and kids.

1998/2002 was also a time when digital cable television started to be popular. I remember being excited of watching all of those movie hits which just stopped to be screening in cinemas.

Cell phones. Cell phones apear on Polish market about in 1995 if I recall well but were rare and kind of flash. In my schoolclass I remember short fashion for beepers (does someone still remember this device?). It was around 1998. In 1999 cell phones started to be prevalent. Parents started to buy them for themselves and their kids. Aggressive commercials of GSM companies fighted for clients. My family cut off stationary phone few years ago since we all had cell phones and didn't need anymore a home phone.

1999/2000 was also hypermarket era. I remember the fist hypermarket in my city. Actually it wasn't hipermarket but a wholesale store but everyone who could were doing home shopping there. After some time western hipermarkets started to explore new Polish market. Local shops started to dissapear as they could not concur with big business.

If you was a teen and wanted really cool clothes, you had to wait untill 2002. That year fist shopping mall (galeria handlowa) in my city was open. Bafore, you had to buy clothes in the marketplace, in hipermarkets, or sometimes in few brand stores.

When we were kids no western fashion of gadgets or clothes avoided us. I mean that it wasn't like that we were fascinated with western fashion, heck, we didn't even know it's western fashion. We just took everything what was served to us: 1996/7 first hype for rollerskaters, 1998 - tamagotchi, 1999 - bojówki pants, and so on.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,626
24 May 2011  #4
Conditionis in Poland were very bad after communism fell, like hell on earth

Hahaha. It's pretty obvious that you know nothing about Poland if you're saying such nonsense.

you would not want to be there lets just put it that way.

Why? About the only negative change that the history books record was the sudden availability of drugs. Apart from that, life was poor, but it was hardly "hell on earth". I mean - I've been doing a lot of research into this - and no-one has said anything about it being "hell on earth".

There were hardly any jobs, poverty was very high

Unemployment went to around 20%. Nothing worse than Spain nowadays - and that was the official unemployment figure. Given that there was a huge black market (and still is) in Poland - the real unemployment rate might have been much lower.

Poverty? I don't recall reading anywhere that Poland was starving. In fact, the worst times economically seem to have been 1980-1981.

crime was very high there were lots of gangs stealing from people.

More imagination, I suspect.

Compare the worst neighborhoods in America with the worst poverty and crime and put that into a whole country and that is what life was like.

You really are deluded. I actually have somewhere an archive of pictures in 1989/1990 - and life was never that bad in Poland. Economically, it was poor - but the country was never in a state of total collapse like you claim.

People had just enough money to buy groceries, pay for heat, and go to church, a very simple life.

Doesn't mean the country was falling apart.

Typical dumb American Polack, portraying Poland to be far worse than it ever was.
mafketis 20 | 7,180
24 May 2011  #5
I spent half of 1991 in Poland (and knew people who'd been through the whole change) it wasn't recovering from being hell on earth.

True, there was major, major disappointment as the dreams that many apparently had about Poland catching up with western Europe in a few months hit the brick wall of reality but it wasn't overall so awful. And I went all over the place at all hours of the day and night and was always safe (whereas I occasionally heard gunfire in my old US neighborhood).
Vincent 9 | 809 Moderator
24 May 2011  #6
Maaarysia, post #5

great review and an excellent post.
BOR
24 May 2011  #7
I was around 10 when the communist system collapsed in Poland and I lived then in Warsaw, my home town by the way. What I remember the most from that time was the fact everything around seemed to be so....grey;/ And then I remember that kids in my school were kind of fascinated with all American stuff - starting from TV shows (such as "Beverly Hills" which arrived around 1993? to Poland) and ending on English language.

Parents were sending their kids for English private lessons, as a sort of investment into their future, at the times there was a true English/American fashion in Poland.

I also recall the arrival of the global companies to Warsaw and the first generation who made good money just because they....spoke English and therefore could be hired by those companies;) I wish it was still that simple
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
25 May 2011  #8
So far so good. Maaarysia, special thanks for y3)our post. That was a nice synopsis.
I have some questions.
1) what was the mood like when the Berlin wall came down? what were some of the immediate predictions?
2) What became of the commie rulers immediately after the communist collapse? What ever became of the cretin Jerzy Urban?
3) what was done with the big companies like Ursus and Polski Len?
4) how was private property reassigned? what did one have to do to reclaim land, buildings, homes, etc?
Ironside 48 | 9,721
25 May 2011  #9
What ever became of the cretin Jerzy Urban?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Urban

What became of the commie rulers immediately after the communist collapse?

Nothing much - Jaruzelski become president - and then all went like ********** !

what was done with the big companies like Ursus and Polski Len?

That is a very good question - destroyed under the guise of so called privatization.

how was private property reassigned?

in a doggy way....you knew a right people and whoosh !

what did one have to do to reclaim land, buildings, homes, etc?

bribe a right person or wait for years for a court decision - many still reclaim their property.
Maaarysia
25 May 2011  #10
great review and an excellent post.

Good post.

Thank you all. It's how I remember my childhood and teen years... maybe some dates aren't very accurate (e.g. now I started thinking about the boom of hypermarket that it maybe took place a year or 2 earlier...), certainly my memory is not flawless but you can be sure that Poland was (and is) changing rapidly.
z_darius 14 | 3,969
25 May 2011  #11
I went to Poland 1990. My mom sent me to the grocery store to get a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk. She gave me a 500,000zl note. I came back with with just over $100,000zl.
Harry
25 May 2011  #12
That's a hugely unlikely tale. In fact I would go as far as calling it complete and utter bullshiit.
Maaarysia
25 May 2011  #13
$100,000zl

so dollars or złotys?

He, he I remember the times when the currency was changed. All prices in shops for some 2 years were in two different values: old złotys and new złotys. So a loaf of bread cost 1 zł or 10 000zł. We all were millionaires before 1995 ;)
z_darius 14 | 3,969
25 May 2011  #14
so dollars or złotys?

oops, I guess this became second nature :)
It was a few cents, I believe.

That's a hugely unlikely tale. In fact I would go as far as calling it complete and utter bullshiit.

It's been a long while since then, so I may be wrong by a million or two.
Maaarysia
25 May 2011  #15
That's a hugely unlikely tale. In fact I would go as far as calling it complete and utter bullshiit.

Is he saying that he paid for a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk 40 PLN?!

It's been a long while since then, so I may be wrong by a million or two.

yes you was. So you mean that bread and milk cost 40 gr back then? Wow, that's cheap.

Edit.
No wait... 4 zł? That's sounds normal. I must be tried.

Today milk costs 2 PLN and bread 2.80 PLN
Harry
25 May 2011  #16
It's been a long while since then, so I may be wrong by a million or two.

So you're wrong by +/- US$ 33 or US$66 on a transaction you claim was US$13?

Those of us who actually lived in Poland during the days of silly money are unlikely to forget them. Apparently those who did not live here then simply can not understand them.

We all were millionaires before 1995

I still have my first million, somewhere.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837
25 May 2011  #17
Those of us who actually lived in Poland during the days of silly money are unlikely to forget them.

I have all but forgotten the silly money. And yes, I lived in Poland at the time. All I can recall is getting 200 000 zł for 60 minutes of teaching English - I have no idea how much anything in the shops cost, or what the average salary was. Nothing. Honestly.
z_darius 14 | 3,969
25 May 2011  #18
So you're wrong by +/- US$ 33 or US$66 on a transaction you claim was US$13?

Your statement needs clarification.

As I admitted above, I may have been wrong. There were lots of zeros on those sheets of paper called money. Of course your concept of admission of error is something out of your personal experience so I'm not surprised you're trying to get to a pissing match. Just, please, don't bring in Poland's 1938 "invasion" of Czechoslovakia into this.

I did business in Poland at the time and inflation was so huge and fast paced that all accounting was done in dollars. And the business was wonderful! Average cost to profit on my end was between 1/10 to 1/20.
Harry
25 May 2011  #19
I have all but forgotten the silly money. And yes, I lived in Poland at the time. All I can recall is getting 200 000 zł for 60 minutes of teaching English - I have no idea how much anything in the shops cost, or what the average salary was.

I can't really remember what things cost but I certainly remember the vast bundles of notes.

I take it that you never played poker with old money? It used to make for some impressive piles of cash in the middle of the table.
Maaarysia
25 May 2011  #20
z_darius

But it's intresting what amount it was: 4 PLN or 0,40 PLN? I would be suprise that the costs of basic products weren't much cheaper than now but I would be even more suprised that back in the 1990 you could buy milk and bread for only 40 groszy!
Harry
25 May 2011  #21
And the business was wonderful! Average cost to profit on my end was between 1/10 to 1/20.

So you mean that either you hugely ripped off Poles or you hugely ripped off Canadians or you hugely ripped off both. Nice business ethics.
Maaarysia
25 May 2011  #22
I can't really remember what things cost

Just found it! In 1994 milk cost was 5500 PLZ that would be 55 groszy in new złoty
z_darius 14 | 3,969
25 May 2011  #23
But it's intresting what amount it was: 4 PLN or 0,40 PLN? I would be suprise that the costs of basic products weren't much cheaper than now but I would be even more suprised that back in the 1990 you could buy milk and bread for only 40 groszy!

I guess I'm not the only one whose memory is blurry.

Without googling, I honestly cant remember what things cost. I lost track about the time when "Copernicus shook hands with Washington" (1988?). It went down fast since then and the issue resurfaced in my mind around 1990/92 (not sure) when they caught a couple in FLA. The produced counterfeit Polish 200,000zl notes, which at the time was roughly equivalent to $20 USD

So you mean that either you hugely ripped off Poles or you hugely ripped off Canadians or you hugely ripped off both. Nice business ethics.

Not at all. My profit margin was actually lower than it is in many cases for goods you buy daily (do you own any Nike garments of shoes). The prices the goods I sent were sold in Poland were about 25% to 50% below market at the time, so I helped a lot of Poles get the goods they needed at prices lower than offered by others. Quantity, Harry. Quantity is the key. But you may be unfamiliar with the concept due to the nature of your per hour business model.
Maaarysia
25 May 2011  #24
I guess I'm not the only one whose memory is blurry.

Well, in 1990 I was too young to do the shopping ;)
mafketis 20 | 7,180
25 May 2011  #25
I went to Poland 1990. My mom sent me to the grocery store to get a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk. She gave me a 500,000zl note. I came back with with just over $100,000zl.

I'd say 50,000 and 10,000 are more likely figures.

I remember the funny money (and kind of enjoyed about talking about how many million zloties I had).

The transition wasn't so bad either. After a couple of weeks and a a false start or two I could combine the old and new money (paying or getting change) with no problems. But someone trying to learn numbers in Poland at that time would have been truly out of luck since a lot of the time people would still use the old amounts with the new bills (but leaving out the word thousand because, who needed to?) So that if someone said pięćdziesiąt (50) it could be 50,000 old zloties or 50 new zloties (which would be worth 500,000 old zloties) the context usually made it clear enough (and you just added nowych or starych to clarify).
Marynka11 4 | 675
25 May 2011  #26
I remember my rent was 1 million in the old zloty. The same year it went down to 100 zloty.
mafketis 20 | 7,180
25 May 2011  #27
What a deal! What did you do with all the money you saved? : )
BOR
25 May 2011  #28
I dont know what you have against Jerzy Urban - honestly;-)

for me he has always represented the right values - just maybe in alittle bit sarcastic way;)
Nathan 18 | 1,363
25 May 2011  #29
Kids were still playing together on the playground, later (in mid 90s) they dissapeared from streets as the home-sitting lifestyle (tv + computer games) became prevalent.

I remember it was impossible to stay at home: played hockey, soccer, street "wars", hide-and-seek, shooting with self-made bows, slings, kid-band's trip to steal green, sour-like-hell apples instead of nice ripe ones at home. Those were always better :) Sweet memories! Computer? What was it? Now, it shifted to thumb exercises big deal. I think it is unfortunate.
Bratwurst Boy 5 | 9,726
25 May 2011  #30
I too sometimes think todays kids lose out much...:(
Even when their rooms are stuffed with electronic, computers and gadgets...or maybe because of it....


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