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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » January 27, 2011
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How Samizdat Publishers Operated
January 27, 2011   
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During the communist period, Polish samizdat publishers had to print on whatever came to hand. Texts were copied using typewriters, printing plates were made using aluminum foil from the grocery store or even sandpaper, and the printing itself was accomplished with the aid of a heavy-duty cleaning paste and even kisiel, a regional gelatinous dessert.

Drukowała Polska cała (All Poland Printed) is an exhibition at the Museum of Wola in Warsaw devoted to the many print shops that operated illegally here under communism, especially during the period 1976-1989, when the presses were smoking.

There were more than 80 underground publications in circulation prior to August 1980 when the Gdańsk Agreement that gave birth to the Solidarity Free Trade Union was concluded between the communist government and the strike committee representing the Gdańsk shipyard workers. Each of these press titles was a periodical so the actual number of publications run into the hundreds with a combined circulation of hundreds of thousands.

Wherever dissident movements and organizations sprang up, so did print shops determined to get their message across to as many people as possible. Subversive material came seeping out of state institutions, offices, hospitals, schools and even the countryside. Independent publishing houses that managed to trade their old wringers and primitive sieves for professional equipment (usually smuggled in) eventually transformed themselves into clandestine enterprises that employed hundreds of people and enjoyed technical and organizational support. And they and their magazines wielded a great deal of political clout.

Exhibits include confiscated machines, plates, printers’ sheets, sieves and dyes found in secret-police storerooms. This is the first time that these items have been put on public display. The many illegal publishing houses and even information on the principles of underground publishing are also shown.

Exhibition open Feb. 12-28
Museum of Wola
Branch of the Warsaw History Museum, 12 Srebrna St., Warsaw
tel. 22 624 37 33, 624 38 79
For more information, go to www.muzeumwoli.mhw.pl
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