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Poland: a country waiting for its future

Thirty years after the fall of Communism, Poland has become an economic powerhouse, and in education the country continues to surge ahead in international ratings. Polish writers and film directors have taken their place in Europe’s top ranks (her writers have always been there), but the country I visited in the late 1980s was depressed and sad.

By the time I arrived in 1989, martial law had been lifted but conditions were grim. There was a lack of benzine so instead of driving my car, I had to rent a diesel, but in traveling the country I could see what was waiting to happen. Krakow—which had never been bombed during the war—had been lovingly maintained and cities like Zamosc, Torun, and Lublin clearly needed a little paint.

Dedication to Father Jerzy Popieluszko, killed by the secret police in 1984. Warsaw, October, 1988.

Poland: Solidarity wins

After being torn apart and occupied for 123 years, Poland was reborn after the First World War. But it was dismembered again by the Germans and Russians in 1939, and then the Germans stormed through the country, which they held until summer, 1944. That is when the Soviet Army chased the Germans out, then set up one party rule until 1989.

Poland clearly led the way in the struggle against Communism. It started with Solidarity in 1980 in the shipyards of Gdansk. Martial Law was imposed in 1981 but Poles pushed back against it, and in 1989 the Communist Party first agreed to meet with the opposition and, through elections, relinquished power.

The mood that autumn was one of hope and promise, as these pictures


Removing the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet Union's secret police, Warsaw. November, 1989.

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