From September 10, 2007:

Communism through local eyes: during and thereafter

The following information is what we obtained by talking to the

Communistic Rule:
1. When Communism began.
In Poland the German border was only 35 kms away. Many
marriages were both German and Polish so they could decide what
country they wanted to live in. After that the German border was
moved further South.
They asked the people if they wanted to be Communist. If they
said "no" they were taken away and beaten or killed.

2. Coupons/Food.
You recieved coupons for meat, shoes, cigarettes, vodka and
sugar. You were given coupons for 2 kgs of meat(4.4 lbs) per
person/week. If your job involved hard labor than you got 4 kgs (8.8
lbs) per person/week. If you were a surgeon, etc you still got 2
kgs/week because your job wasn´t very physical. "You would just
trade with others," said one woman. "If you didn´t smoke than you
traded your cigarette coupons for something else." She said if there
was a family wedding then family members would save their coupons and
put them together to get enough food for the party. She stated, "you
would run into problems when there was a death. No one had coupons
saved up." For shoes they were allowed 2 pair per year.
We also heard over and over that the food shelves were
frequently empty. If the Russians needed the food it was sent to
them from the other Communist countries.

3. Wages/Currency:
Poland: 2.85 zt = $1.00 US
Minimum wage: $420 US/month!
Beer: .5 liters = $1.23 US (this is equal to one hour of work)
Gas: $8.00 per gallon (that´s why the bike is so popular)

Czech Rep: 20 kr = $1.00 US
Minimum wage: 2000 kr/month = $100 US/month

Many can´t save enough money to go on holiday (vacation).

Adults and families are moving west for better career
opportunities which is creating a problem with adequate student
enrollment in schools. Also, the contractors go west during the
summer where they can make more money so it is hard to make any

After primary and/or secondary school, a good portion of the
young population (including East Germany) is moving west in hopes of
better employment. We´ve noticed many vacant buildings but not many
active industries. We have heard many times that the govt. is not
creating jobs. We talked to a group of students from East Germany.
They were planning on taking classes to help them be more marketable
in the lfuture when they are searching for jobs. We thought this was
a very mature way of thinking and we were very impressed that at that
age they were thinking of their future and not the immediate "fun"
that so many other teenages think of. They do not take their futures
for granted.

4. Censorship:
The Communists monitored alot of the people´s activities:
- listened in on telephone conversations and sometimes
disconnected the line.
- intercepted the mail, in fact, even tore out the pages of the
National Geographic magazines that they didn´t want the people to
- One woman said the military took her father at the age of
15. In later years his brother that lived in San Francisco wanted to
see him. The Russians disconnected their telephone conversations,
intercepted the mail and wouldn´t allow the brother in the US a visa
and so the 2 brothers never saw each other before their deaths.

5. Role of Alcohol:
Vodka was, and still is the cultural drink of the Eastern Block
countries. It represents a significant stronghold in these countries
both mentally and economically. Many people drank alcohol to help
numb the depression they felt and help make times more bearable.
There are some theories that the Russians found it easier to control
people if they were intoxicated. For the businessman, they would
send their colleagues that were the best drinkers to the business
meetings. It was the businessman that could not handle his liquor
that ended up with the "raw end of the deal".

6. Catholic Church and Rotary.
The Catholic church actually was against Rotary re-establishing
itself in Poland. The church felt that Rotary had too many
similarities to the Masons. In Krakow, Rotary started in 1934. The
Nazis ended it in 1939. Communist rule kept Rotary out of
mainstream Poland until 1991 when the Communist rule ceased.

7. During Communism and after its Cessation.
When Communism began they moved factories into villages and
built high rise apartment buildings to house the workers. Most of
the buildings were gray. People did not have the motivation to work
hard since they ALL recieved the same pay. Therefore, alot of the
infrastructure was in disrepair and the Russians did not see the
value of making improvements.
The people stood up against the Communists. A Lativan woman
described how they all held hands and formed a chain across the
Baltic Countries in protest to the Communists. She stated, "people
were getting shot and you didn´t know if you would be next." The
Latvian govt did not want their people to fight back because they
were afraid it would result in a war. During the movement to stop
communism, the Catholic church served as a safe house.
Once Communism ended there was a time of disarray. People were
free but weren´t sure what to do. One man described it as "we
weren´t better off financially but we were free in our hearts".
People with an entrepreneur spirit have started their own businesses.

8. Pope John Paul II:
Elizabeth (the woman and her husband that we stayed with in
Poland) told about when she was going to college. John Paul (before
he was Pope) was one of her teachers at the private Catholic school
that she was attending. When the word was out that he was made the
new Pope, no one believed it because the Communists kept it off the
TV and out of the papers. Once the rumor was confirmed true and
there was alot of celebrating then the TV just said, "a Poland priest
was chosen as Pope." After he became Pope, he sent an extra pair
of shoes back for all the students at the University (remember they
had to use coupons for shoes and were only allowed 2 pair per year).

In summary, all countries are progressing to a higher standard of
living but for some, because of the stronghold of Communism, it is a
very, very slow process.