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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » August 26, 2010
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Communist Poland Under the Lens
August 26, 2010   
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The History Meeting House is showing an exhibition of photos from the Forum Polish Photographers Agency entitled Gierek Four Seasons: Poland 1970-1980.

More than 150 photos from such respected photojournalists as Chris Niedenthal, Sławek Biegański, Maciej Osiecki and Aleksander Jałosiński have been put together to depict Poland as it was during the 1970s, when the country was ruled by the communist party under the leadership of Edward Gierek.

The shutters are raised on what was going on socially and politically, and we also get a glimpse into everyday life as it was then. We get to intrude into applicants standing in line in government offices, families going on outings crammed into their tiny Fiats, overcrowded Baltic beaches, communist party congresses, preparations for International Workers’ Day (May 1) celebrations and state farm harvests.

The 1970s are said to have been the glory days of communist Poland. With Gierek in the saddle, Poland was bucking to be the 10th largest economy in the world, according to the official propaganda of the day. The costs, however, were quietly being racked up on the national credit card and, by as early as 1974-1975, the spiraling debt was lying in wait to sucker punch a dazed economy reeling from acute shortages in housing, meat and even toilet paper.

These photos expose the facade of wealth and modernity that was papered over the country. Overcrowded train carriages and tractors with cows grazing on lawns in front of brand-new housing blocks made of huge prefabricated concrete panels share wall space with the tirelessly trumpeted “great triumphs of socialism,” such as Warsaw’s Centralna train station and the massive Katowice Steelworks.

“We selected the photos for the exhibition from among the 15,000 or so that Forum has collected from the 1970s,” say the exhibition’s editors, Krzysztof Wójcik and Tomasz Gleb from Forum. “They’ve been taken from private photographic archives and we often found them after months of what was virtually detective work.”

Open until Oct. 31
The History Meeting House, 20 Karowa St., Warsaw, tel. 22 255 05 05
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tue. to Fri., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sat. and Sun.
Free admission. For more information, go to www.dsh.waw.pl
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