An Anthropologist's Look at Everyday Life.

Janine Wedel

From original book jacket, 1986:

Life in Poland today-public and private-is fraught with contradiction. Yet, Poles have developed a keen ability both to live with and to manipulate these contradictions.

 • Although the government carefully controls the press, Poles are widely aware of unofficial information about Elton John's visit with Lech Walesa or the street locations of black market vodka, gasoline or toilet paper

• Poland is communist by constitution, yet Poles can manage to accumulate considerable wealth - and even become millionaires

• Many Communist Party members privately practice Roman Catholicism or contribute to the underground. Also, within many families, Party members are the parents, children or brothers and sisters of Solidarity activists or clergy

• Even though they are citizens of an Eastern European communist nation, it is easier for Poles to travel to the West than to the Soviet Union or other Eastern-bloc nations

Contradiction is, in short, an apt description of the Polish way of life. The private exchanges, sometimes between average citizens, sometimes reaching into official circles, are the very warp that holds together the economic tapestry. And though Poles take pride in being sprytny (ingenious in successfully arranging a deal), such activity is at the same time an affront to their dignity and a source of guilt.

THE PRIVATE POLAND offers a thorough examination of Poland, of the conflict between public and private life, of the official economy and the true economy, and of the people who daily tread a skillful path to enjoy or improve their lives or simply to survive. The book provides a firsthand look at Polish people and institutions, from the intelligentsia to the workers to the peasants, from the Church to Solidarity to the Party, detailing: social and economic life under martial law; the persistence of the informal economy; the absence of Western-style business relationships; the elaborate etiquette and language of private exchange; the key role of the family and social circle in economic and political life; the role and necessity of privately circulated information; the overlapping allegiances of Party, Church and Solidarity; and the future of Poland.

A moving insider's examination, THE PRIVATE POLAND pulls aside the Iron Curtain, revealing a nation – at the same time representative of the Eastern bloc and yet unique – rarely seen and little understood by the West.

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"Try Kansas: Real American Cigarettes"

Poster from early 1980s: Imported and domestic goods were available for purchase with U.S. dollars in Pewex retail outlets, operated by the Polish government.

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