I was born in 1981, raised in the communism. Not many of you can even imagine what communism was like. Every single time when I mentioned my upbringing in communism to my colleagues they can’t really believe it. Let me tell you a bit about the first years of my life.
It’s kind of strange to think even about it, looking at my life now – at this point, when I’m writing those words I enjoy a lovely cheeseboard with tasty oatcakes and red onion chutney. So let me start my wee story about growing up in extremely different times than today.
Officially in Poland communism finished in 1989, I was eight by then. We lived at the outskirts of a small town in the north of Poland, around 15 miles from Baltic Sea. Our town had three primary schools, two high schools. Few bakery’s, two churches, some small factories or government-run warehouses. Just an average and boring town. Located between two slightly bigger cities, each roughly 20 miles away.
We lived in a relatively new but unfinished home, my dad built it roughly 7 years before I was born. Grandfather from my father side was some kind of important individual and he managed to get him bricks to build a house and always supported him financially. Both of my parents worked at communistic co-op, both as tailors, the majority of people working there were in some way disabled – Deaf – like my parents, some blind or with CP. They didn’t make much money, but as disabled adults, they had this job guaranteed. At least.
Did you know, that I ate orange or banana probably around the age of seven? Back in the day you couldn’t go to the shop and buy things like today. We had only vinegar, toilet paper and mustard on the shopping shelves. To buy other products, we had to have government vouchers but even with them – you couldn’t get much more than 1 kg of sugar per person. Forget about meat or anything else. If shops were getting delivery of any sort, we had to wait in long queue’s and if you were lucky enough to get, let’s say sugar, you could exchange your voucher with someone else who needed sugar and had voucher lets say to obtain flour. Can you imagine the prices of smuggled goods in the black market?
Once, as wee laddie, I was in the queue to get a tire for my bicycle, we have been swapping it with my brother – if you had money, you could rent a person who would stand in the queue instead of you. Damn. What a time back then.
From time to time, as a family we used to get a food parcel from RFN- my parent’s work had partnership programme with German Government and each of the families from the factory had a “partner family” in Federal Republic of Germany West Germany. Those families were sending us twice a year parcels with food. This was like Christmas. We got oranges, chocolate, some other amazing treats as bananas, candy but what I remember the most, we always had in the parcel this amazing tinned ham. Egg-shaped tin- it was a luxury. Tin had a wee opening device where you had to peel and roll around a small key-like metal needle to open this tin of ham. I know that for you it sounds crazy, but back then we didn’t have anything.
We were children of the playgrounds, forests and fields. We have been living day by day, going to school miles away at the age of 7 by ourselves. Our parents on top of work had to grow vegetables and some fruits, farm chickens and other animals. It was such a mix. You had houses where people had regular jobs, phone line, telly, but next door lived family who had two cows, chickens and they were selling milk. We have been closer to each other for sure.
On top of this shortage of goods, we lived in a society of bribes. You could get away with everything – just a matter of price. Speeding ticket, drinking and driving- even that. Matter of price. But hey, I was just a kid, didn’t pay anyone, I just heard adults talking about it. In communism, nothing was private property, nothing was middle or upper class, the idea of classes was removed and no matter how hard or how little you worked, you deserved the same access to care, housing, goods (not really). There was no place for individualism and independent thinking. Thank god this is just distant memory for us in Europe.
Today, Poland is no different than the UK in terms of shop supplies, technology, we got bananas and oranges too in the shops. Communism crushed in 1989 – it was just over 30 years ago and such a shift happened. Maybe for older generations of 50 years of age and over the mental shift is not done yet, but let me tell you, everyone born after 1990 can’t relate and it’s amazing to see changes in the society of western and central Europe. Things they take for granted weren’t even accessible a few years late, nor we heard of them. Equality, rights, law and order?
We live in such an amazing time now, we are lucky. I hope that we will stay this way, with no wars, without destruction and with hope for the future, as we have literally everything now.
We live in Scotland. We love Scotland. I feel here like at home – we have jobs here, mortgage, kids are attending here to school. It’s so unbelievable how quick this world is moving. I am 39 this year and I feel like I have been living in three different ages. Communism, post communism and democracy. All very different all within 40 years. What a story. With falling of Berlin wall, world which we knew, also fell. For good I hope.
For me communism is a distant memory, for millennialls it’s a fiction and and shadow of the past. But I can assure you that many countries in the world are still suffering from communistic ideology. Why do I wrote about it?
I just want you to stop complaining about today’s life and start making changes for better tomorrow. Can you?