Grażyna Gorski

Grażyna Gorski’s Life in Communist Poland

Image 1.1: Map illustrating the location of  Białystok in the north-east of Poland. Image courtesy of WikiCommons.

Growing Up in Białystok

Grażyna Gorski was born in Białystok, Poland in 1965 and grew up in a small farming village on the outskirts of the city.  At that time, Poland was a Soviet satellite state, not directly controlled but influenced by the Soviet regime. This influence even extended to the school curriculum, which mandated that students learn Russian as their second language. 

Despite growing up under communism, Grażyna has a lot of happy memories. When she turned fifteen, she decided to return to the city and live with her sister while attending high school. She recalls gaining a sense of freedom when her parents gave her permission to drive their car in the city, provided that she drove her grandmother to church on Sundays.

One year later, however, her new found independence vanished when Poland declared Martial Law.

Image 1.2: Long lines in front of stores were not an uncommon sight in Poland during this time period. Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Changing Times

Grażyna felt like a prisoner when Martial Law was enforced in communist Poland. She could not move freely. She had to wait in long lines for food rations, and public gatherings were strictly forbidden.

Poland was undergoing change and the economy was crumbling. The government reacted by raising the prices of consumer goods, leading to rebellion against the communist government. As protests continued, the newly formed Solidarity Movement gained momentum.

In 1981, with approval from the Soviet government, Martial Law was declared in Poland to suppress protesters and regain control over the country. There was a military presence countrywide and strict curfews were enforced. There were also food and good shortages. Every family had a ration book with weekly allowances for meat, sugar and other items and long lines formed before dawn every day outside of shops.

Even after Martial Law was lifted in 1983, life in Poland did not improve. Food rations and shortages still occurred and people continued to struggle.


How does a lack of food lead to rebellion?

Can you think of other political rebellions that came out of a lack of food? 

A status wherein the government allows the military full control of the law, taking the control away from local police jurisdictions.

Founded in 1980, the movement was the first freely organized, with permission from the Communist government, trade workers union in a Soviet state. It was founded in 1980. The group quickly grew into an anti-communist movement, spreading across Poland. The Polish government feared losing control, and attempted to break up the movement and to stop it from spreading.

After World War II, the Soviet Union wanted to create a buffer against the possibility of future invasion. To do this, they remotely controlled neighbouring countries through a Soviet military presence, police forces and government pressure. Poland resisted and fought back. While Poland gained some freedom, it still remained under the Soviet influence as seen in the implementation of Martial Law.


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 Part 4

 Part 5

 Part 6