Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Communist regime changed Poland and the country till now tries to deal with issues that took place during that period. Although the reality was sometimes depressing, the Poles learnt to accept it – and even laugh at their everyday life. The lack of meat, clothes, furniture and all the products that are essential for basic standard of living seemed not to bother attendees of cabaret performances and film producers who made jokes about the situation in Poland. Laugh seemed to be the best cure for the lack of freedom – to say even more, it gave freedom to all those who had to comply with communist regime.
One of the most popular Polish cabaret duets were Bohdan Smolen and Zenon Laskowik. Those two knew how to make people forget about their everyday worries and made them feel that communism was temporary situation that was easy to neglect and live on. Empty shelves in Polish shops, unclear rules of the regime, health care or general crisis of the country are only few of topics tackled in their shows. Of course not always they could say thinks literally – but then they used metaphors to hide the real meaning of what they said.
70’ and 80’ were especially rich in comedies. But these were very often unusual films that made the Poles laugh at life they normally lead. Although the reality in those movies is much exaggerated, the lack of toilette paper or impolite shop assistants were problems that people living in Poland faced at that time – still, watching this kind of satire reminded them that the reality is not normal and but one can still deal with it in its own way.
One of the films that is surely know by most of Polish society is ‘Teddy Bear’ (Mis) directed by Stanislaw Bareja in 1980, which is described by many as the most acclaimed Polish comedy. The film simply shows the nonsense of everyday life in Poland of 70’ as well as people who still enjoy it and try to make the best out of it. The history of the president of sports club, called Teddy Bear, tries to get from communist Poland to London to gain access to account that he shares with his ex-wife.
‘I hate Mondays’ (Nie lubie poniedzialku) – made by Tadeusz Chmielewski in 1971 – shows one ‘ordinary’ day of ordinary people... but even mere Monday can bring unexpected adventures that make our life crazy. Simple problems grow due to coincidences and unplanned mistakes.
‘Catch me, if you can?’ (Co mi zrobisz, jak mnie zlapiesz?), directed by Stanislaw Bareja in 1978, is another film that shows absurd of life in communistic Poland. Love, betrayal, career are things that even during complicated situation in country absorbed the minds of Poles.
For foreign tourists jokes and films about communist regime are probably not that funny – or might not make sense at all. But also younger generation of Poles does not recall that some of the situations in movies and jokes were really part of reality. And though many people still cannot forget the past and politics is full of accusations about attitudes towards the regime and communistic government, there are many that are inspired by attitudes of simple people towards their everyday life. To give an example one can mention Nowa Huta (part of Krakow that was created as a purely communist city) where the visitors can take a tour and learn about the rules that Poles were obliged to comply with. Visiting apartment furnished in a style of 70’ or restaurant that has not changed since 80’, drinking vodka or getting to know funny details from this period is surely a great lesson. The tours are given in old cars such as Polish Syrenka or German Trabant – all to make people smile when thinking about communism in Poland.