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Question on Poland 1980-82 (the history of Solidarity during the years of 1980 and 1981)


US_Rover 1 | 2
26 Apr 2011  #1
Hi everyone,

I'm a student of history and more specifically, a student of Soviet military history. Over the past few years I've focused on Russian Command and Control and their exercises from the late 70's to mid 80's. During my research, I came across books that linked Soviet military exercises to events inside Poland. The events of Solidarnosc. As a result, I dove head first into Polish military history and the history of Solidarity during the years of 1980 and 1981.

I knew very little of Polish military history, or rather realized such after I started, but I soon became fascinated with those two years and the hundreds of years prior - mostly focusing on the relationship between Poland and her neighbors (Germany and Russia) - when I heard this joke:

"You're a Polish General and both the Germans and Russians are attacking you at the same time. Who do you shoot first?

The Germans. Business before pleasure."

I've read many books thus far but they can't properly complete the picture. I've not been to and don't look likely to ever go to Poland any time soon, and I also don't know any Polish people. So, I looked up Polish internet groups and found this forum. I've read through a number of threads already and I think I'll find exactly what I'm looking for. That is, I'd like to know about those years from people who lived there during that time.

-What was your view of Solidarity and KOR in August of '80 and did it change by December of '81? If so how and why?
-Did government rationing and propaganda play a role?
-What were the rations and what commodities were available? What commodities were luxury items? What were, if any, the differences between city and country life?

-What was your view of the PUWP, specifically Gen. Jaruzelski, PM Kania, and Gen Olszowski? Did it change between Aug '80 and Dec '81? If so how and why?

-What was your view of Col. Kuklinski's defection? Did you know of it at that time? If so, how did you hear of it?

-What was your view of the CPSU; Brezhnev, Andropov, Ustinov, Suslov, etc? Was Marshal Kulikov a know figure? If so, how?
-Did the USSR's history of Hungary '56, Czechoslovakia '68, and Afghanistan '79 play on your mind during this time? Did it affect how you viewed your government or Solidarity's actions?

-The ZOMO, how often and what impact did they have on your life or those around you?
-And what role or effect did Cardinal Wyzsynski and Pope John Paul II have on you, your friends and family, and on the government and Solidarity?

-For those who attended church, what was the message from the pulpit?
-What was the reaction after the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II?

I have many more questions but I think I've posted enough thus far. Thank you for your time.
pawian 153 | 8,430
26 Apr 2011  #2
In 1980s I was in my early teens. Naturally, I wasn`t interested too much in party or Solidarity matters at the time. But I remember a few things.

-What was the reaction after the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II?

General dejection. The uni students` festival in Krakow, Juvenalia, was cancelled. Instead, white march was organised.

More:
wawel.net/papa-bialy-marsz-1981.htm
OP US_Rover 1 | 2
27 Apr 2011  #3
Hi pawian,

Thanks for that information. Was the "white march" only in Krakow or were there similar marches in the other main cities? Did the authorities respond to that march? I did see a Solidarnosc banner.

Since you were chasing skirts then, what was the popular music then? Was Pugacheva rocking there despite her being Russian or was 2+1 (the only Polish group I know from that time) the thing?
z_darius 14 | 3,971
27 Apr 2011  #4
Answering for myself, not for all Poles (and I won't check for typos):

- What was your view of Solidarity and KOR in August of ’80 and did it change by December of ’81? If so how and why?
The period that spans the early movemet was to short to make sense of a lot. All we cared abut was unity of all Pols against the commuists. Slight differences did not matter all that much, although increased number of strikes begain to be a nuissance.

-Did government rationing and propaganda play a role?
A role in what?

-What were the rations and what commodities were available? What commodities were luxury items? What were, if any, the differences between city and country life?

There was a shortage of everything, from booze to books. Coupons issud by the gov. were for sugar, alcohol, cigaretes, butter meat (except the really crappy one, the kind British cuisine is famous for). I can't recall more items.

-What was your view of the PUWP, specifically Gen. Jaruzelski, PM Kania, and Gen Olszowski? Did it change between Aug ’80 and Dec ’81? If so how and why?

Tha view didn't change a lot during that time. They were obviously Soviet puppets.

-What was your view of Col. Kuklinski’s defection? Did you know of it at that time? If so, how did you hear of it?

A hero. News first came from Radio Free Europe and from Voice of America. Polish news eventualy publicized it further, fom the communist angle whereby he was declared a traitor.

-What was your view of the CPSU; Brezhnev, Andropov, Ustinov, Suslov, etc? Was Marshal Kulikov a know figure? If so, how?
Brezhnev - there were spontaneous discos in the loby of my university. They dancing started before 8am in the morning after he died. We were expressing our joy.

Andropov - I remeber the arrogance of the news when he replacd Brezhnev. They were talking about all commie countries leaders congratulating him. When it came to Hungary, they said Andropv had a special relationship with Humgarians. It was true. He was in charge of te Soviet troops who squashed the Hungarian Uprising during which a the majority of the young and educated were killed or imprisoned.

The other ones were pretty much auxiliary figure heads to us.

-Did the USSR’s history of Hungary ’56, Czechoslovakia ’68, and Afghanistan ’79 play on your mind during this time? Did it affect how you viewed your government or Solidarity’s actions?

We did, and some of us still do, have a sense of guilt over Prague and Poland's role.
I had a conversation once with a Warsaw Pact military inspector in the rank of Colonel. Already then he said Afghanistan was a disaster that wold fiish the uSSR off. That made us think a little too bravely perhaps. If they can't handle Afghaistan they won't handle us.

-The ZOMO, how often and what impact did they have on your life or those around you?
Daily. random ID checks, itercity travel, curfew.

-And what role or effect did Cardinal Wyzsynski and Pope John Paul II have on you, your friends and family, and on the government and Solidarity?

Big boost in the general youthful enthusiasm

-For those who attended church, what was the message from the pulpit?
Don't give up. God gave us rights so stand for them.

-What was the reaction after the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II?
The USSR was automatically blamed. The news was a bit worrisome from the psychological point of view. Some saw it as the Soviet prelude to realy get at Poles in a very hard way.
pawian 153 | 8,430
27 Apr 2011  #5
Thanks for that information. Was the "white march" only in Krakow or were there similar marches in the other main cities? Did the authorities respond to that march? I did see a Solidarnosc banner.

Yes, only in Krakow. The white march was repeated in Krakow in 2005, to honour the Polish Pope.
Local authorities didn`t respond, Solidarity was at its peak then.

Since you were chasing skirts then, what was the popular music then? Was Pugacheva rocking there despite her being Russian or was 2+1 (the only Polish group I know from that time) the thing?

Pugacheva was a bit popular but with the older generation. 2+1 was a nice pop group which sang about spring and flowers blooming, adults liked it, I suppose. In late 1970s and early 1980s they played Abba and other Western music on our school discos.

The Song Festivals, especially in Opole, created 5-minute-fame pop singers.
E.g.,
..
Some lasted longer than 5 minutes.
...

As for me and my friends, we preferred rock. In 1981 was the first time I heard AC/DC and got infected by heavy metal. Famous Polish groups like TSA, Oddział Zamknięty, Lady Pank, Maanam or Perfect started their careers at the time, which later rocketed to unbelievable dimensions. Jarocin Rock Festival started in 1980 and was an oasis of freedom throughout 1980s.

You can watch the film about Polish rock of 1980s: The Beats of Freedom on youtube:
...

(the only Polish group I know from that time)

Your education about Polish music has giant holes, like Swiss cheese. Why don`t you start a new thread so that people contribute the Polish music of 1980s?

One example from 1982, one of my fav then:


Bzibzioh
27 Apr 2011  #6
Good one :)

What commodities were luxury items?

Anything that came from Pewex. Coupons for mały Fiat. Telephones. Color TV set.

What were, if any, the differences between city and country life?

Villages had food, cities - not so much. If not for the farmer's market in the city, we would die of starvation. Literally. There was nothing in the grocery stores beside bottles of vinegar and mustard.

-Did government rationing and propaganda play a role?

It was obvious that the situation was bad so no amount of propaganda would change anything.

-And what role or effect did Cardinal Wyzsynski and Pope John Paul II have on you, your friends and family, and on the government and Solidarity?

Wyszyński had this air of dignity around him. He was unbreakable. When Karol Wojtyła become the Pope it was just amazing: this deep feeling that we don't have to be afraid anymore. Electrifying.

-What was your view of the CPSU; Brezhnev, Andropov, Ustinov, Suslov, etc?

We hated them equally; a new name - same sh1t.

-The ZOMO, how often and what impact did they have on your life or those around you?

ZOMO operated mainly during demonstrations. No much brain power, just obedient muscles.
OP US_Rover 1 | 2
28 Apr 2011  #7
There was a shortage of everything, from booze to books

What kind of booze/beer and cigs where available? I'd imagine that Russian beer, Zhigulevskoye, and Yava cigarettes were common... Any Marlboro Reds? :)

We did, and some of us still do, have a sense of guilt over Prague and Poland's role.

Are relations between Poland and Czechoslovakia (past and present forms) quite friendly despite the acts of your governments? Was Afghanistan and your view common and openly discussed then? Like I said, I don't know much about Polish life during that time but I know of Russian and German so I am curious to see if there differences beyond cultural... Which is "swiss cheese" like pawain's pointed out concerning music :)

2+1 was a nice pop group which sang about spring and flowers blooming, adults liked it, I suppose.

Hilarious! I like a good pop song every now and then but you're right, rock is preferable. Majka Jezowska's song sounds like Calypso/Reggae. Is that intended or is that a common folk music tempo?... But maybe I should start that "Poland '80s Music" thread! :)

Anything that came from Pewex.

I didn't know of Pewex, thanks, very interesting. Sounds very similar to DDR's "Intershop."

Wyszyński had this air of dignity around him.

My family's roots are Irish and JPII's portrait was always hanging on someone's wall. I imagine that that is also true for Poles, probably even more so. Did you call him Pope John Paul II or was he always Karol Wojtyla?

No much brain power, just obedient muscles.

Brilliant quote! "Obedient muscles."

Thank you all for your answering my questions. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. I had a Great Uncle who lived with the Sioux Indians - men who fought General Custer - and no one in my family took the time to find out about these people and their lives. What a tragedy. So when he died, so did their stories. People who live history have a lot to tells us and being a student of history, my motivation is to have people tell me their stories. I've read and am reading the history books but to get a more complete picture I need first hand experiences, and I thank you all again for sharing your lives.
z_darius 14 | 3,971
28 Apr 2011  #8
Answering only regarding things I know about:

What kind of booze/beer and cigs where available? I'd imagine that Russian beer, Zhigulevskoye, and Yava cigarettes were common... Any Marlboro Reds? :)

There were coupons for vodka. I believe it was a bottle per month. Beer was rather available but hard liquor was the preferred dope, and defacto an indicator of the US Dollar value. $1.00 equaled 1 (half liter) bottle of Zytnia Vodka (give or take a sip)

All Polish cigs were available in stores (some Marlboro reds too) but the coupons were sufficient for 10 packs/month. Anything could be bought through Pewex (kind internal export where you could buy most "deficit" products for hard currency)

You could buy cigs from the Polish or Soviet troops by the pound (or kilo, rather). These came in the form of really long cigarettes you had to cut to practical length. The longest one I saw was about 5 feet long, but nothing above 8" was "smokeable", no kick.

People traded coupons. I gave away my vodka coupon for cig coupons.
Some people made moonshine.

Was Afghanistan and your view common and openly discussed then?

It was discussed but most people didn't know a whole lot. I knew more than most.

As for music, the scene was pretty rich (considering...). There was quite a lively movement within musicians who concentrated on politics, illustrated the reality, kept up the hopes etc. Some names Kaczmarski, Gintrowski, Ewa Bem and lots of others. Some mainstream musicians touched on politics too, but that would be sometimes hard to translate due to the subtlety of some of the language we used - to say things we wanted to say but could not say openly.
Marek11111 9 | 817
28 Apr 2011  #9
I remember that you could trade your sugar ration coupons for vodka too.
At that time the vodka at store was 600plz the dollar was 500plz and the battle of vodka at "pewex" was a 1 dollar so if you buy dollars and waited till stores close you could make a profit.

z_darius:

All Polish cigs were available in stores

None filter was called sports and filtered were klubowe, matches used to suck the jock was the people before ww2 devided 1 match in 4 and all 4 worked and now every 4th is working

I remember getting stopped by police or army on check points asking for " dowod " and if you did not have stamp that you were employed you were escorted from bus for questions, and there were protest every day at news hour. Some time I spread the flyers about WRONA.
z_darius 14 | 3,971
28 Apr 2011  #10
I guess the rate varied, but you could get much better profit if you just sold the vodka. That was for those who knew how to beat the coupon system or who bought from the Soviets.

I remember getting stopped by police or army on check points asking for " dowod " and if you did not have stamp that you were employed you were escorted from bus for questions.

I went through that twice only.
Once when traveling from Zielona Gora to Wroclaw (at the time a permit was required) and the second time in Wroclaw about 10 minutes AFTER I unloaded some "micro literature".
grubas 12 | 1,392
28 Apr 2011  #11
I didn't know of Pewex, thanks, very interesting. Sounds very similar to DDR's "Intershop."

There was also Baltona same thing.

Anything could be bought through Pewex (kind internal export where you could buy most "deficit" products for hard currency)

Yeah I used to spend my "kieszonkowe" (my father was giving me bony PKO) on Matchbox models and later on Sony and Basf audio tapes.Good times.

There were coupons for vodka. I believe it was a bottle per month.

youtube.com/watch?v=yvYsmgvUsFY

Any Marlboro Reds? :)

Sometimes people could buy them at the Ruch kiosks.They were made in Krakow.
Marek11111 9 | 817
29 Apr 2011  #12
I forget about popularne smokes my favor at time
z_darius 14 | 3,971
29 Apr 2011  #13
I smoked mostly Caro, sometimes Kent which was carried by one of the stores. But that was pre-martial law.

I remember one night I ran out of cigs. It was almost midnight and the nearest place to get them was the railway station, but busses were no longer runing and my dad quit smoking a few months before. In desperation, I tried to smoke a joint made out of Ulung tea. That didn't work too well, so resigned, I took to reviewing some school notes from previous year in preparation for a major Polish Language test.

And voila!
Between the pages of one of the notebooks there was this one caro cigarette, pressed thin after a year among and under the notebooks. That was perhaps the best few puffs I ever had. The dry cig felt exactly the way it should.

I smoked it in my bedroom and to ensure that my parents would not smell the smoke, I used to use some grade 5 knowledge about temperature and air movement: on colder days, in a room the cold air flows in through the bottom part of the window opening, it gets armed up and escapes though the upper part of the opening. Works like a charm. You could stand right next to the smoker and not smell a thing.

Two guys were passing outside and chatting. I heard fragments of their conversation" "who wudda thunk they'd elect a Pole..." That's all I could make out. The rest of the words was absorbed by the echoes of their footstep.

I turned on Radio Free Europe. Yes. That night they elected Karol Wojtyla to be the next Pope.
Bzibzioh
29 Apr 2011  #14
My dad used to work in Vienna back in 1977. He said that oftentimes Wojtyła, who was passing Vienna on the way to Vatican, would stop and celebrate a mass for Poles on Kahlenberg. There was a rumor going around that he was considered for a pope. But when Paul VI died, they chose another Italian. So I thought my father was talking nonsense. One moth later though I had to admit that ... father knows best :s
Eurola 4 | 1,911
29 Apr 2011  #15
I turned on Radio Free Europe. Yes. That night they elected Karol Wojtyla to be the next Pope.

I was a high school kid at that time. To this day I remember how it was announced on Polish TV news and how uncomfortable the speaker was. He just said it in a scripted, nonchalant way and it was visible how embarrassed and uncomfortable he was to say it.
Image Whisperer - | 5
31 Aug 2011  #16
Merged: August 31, 1982 demonstrations in Poland

August 31, 1982 demonstrations in Poland refers to anti-government street demonstrations organized by underground Solidarity to commemorate the second anniversary of the Gdańsk Agreement. The bloodiest protest occurred in southwestern Poland, in the town of Lubin, on 31 August 1982. The Lubin demonstration resulted in three protesters killed by Communist services, and unknown number wounded.

On the same day, rallies and demonstrations took place in several cities across the country. According to Solidarity sources, there were four more victims—in Wrocław, Gdańsk, Nowa Huta, and Toruń. According to official sources of the government, on that day demonstrations took place in 66 cities.
rybnik 18 | 1,462
31 Aug 2011  #17
I was in Wroclaw on that day. I was too scared to join the brave ones demonstrating on Plac Grunwaldski. My wife and I came after the fact to gawk at the ZOMO and breathe in the expended tear gas.


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