post communism in Poland


During the communist and post-communist times, the town like many others looked bare, skinned, dull and sad. As in Żeromski’s novels, where the reader can smell the mud, feel the cold with dampness and experience relentless poverty. There were two cinemas in Września; Pionier and Tonsil, sponsored by local production factories. After the re-privatization period, they turned out to be unprofitable and then therefor liquidated. So it went with everything across the whole country of Poland.

Carpet beater in Wrześni. Fot. Ireneusz Zjeżdżałka
Fot. Ireneusz Zjeżdżałka
Sacristy, Fot. Ireneusz Zjeżdżałka

What can communism and the new ideology, or rather the lack of it, do with the town and its citizens? It strips the place and the people of their ambitions and motivations. But even without them, it is possible to live with. Hidden deeply, there was hope for change. Change is always better, they say. Change is more attractive than stagnation.

Września, Fot. Ireneusz Zjeżdżałka
Września, Fot. Ireneusz Zjeżdżałka

Comparing the present with that period of time in the past, it turns out that it also had its advantages. We had very good food although our dishes were simple and traditional. Nobody had a career. People had jobs and that’s what they called them. There were no frustrations related to the lack of fulfilment in professional life. The women gave birth to children, worked and ran a house. They wrote no books about it. It did not occur to them that they were more oppressed or more liberated because of it. Children and teenagers got to know each other and the world in the open-air while learning how to be independent. Time seemed to flow slower in silence …

We dreamed of a better life, and it turned out to be neither better nor worse.

Wrześnica river bridges, Fot. Ireneusz Zjeżdżałka
Altar, Fot. Ireneusz Zjeżdżałka

All images are linked to their sources.

Author: Aleksandra Walkowska



My reflection of the Polish fashion and design in the 1960s is based on the black and white movies I have seen such as Knife in the water by Roman Polański or Night train by Jerzy Kawalerowicz. The generation born during the war would be in their early twenties by then. It was natural to aim for change as the wounds of war were healing.

Knife in the water by Romand Polański, 1962
‘Knife in the water’ by Romand Polański, 1962
Night train by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1959
‘Night Train’ by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1959

With the new Polish Communist leader Władysław Gomułka and his vision of socialistic Poland, there was an expansion of block apartments built out of cheap material. Every year thousands of them were released to the public. Those apartments were tiny therefor rooms were multifunctional. Dining rooms during the day would be used as bedrooms at the night time. Multifunctional furniture such as the famous wall unit was present in every apartment. There was no uniqueness, the same style, the same furniture perhaps the colour would change, most of the apartments looked the same.

Wall unit, Poland, Communism era
Wall unit, Poland, Communism era


Economical and industrial growth was planned five years ahead and it would consider infrastructure and mass production. It meant that the consumer would have to wait five years to purchase the goods.

Ladies Confection was the phrase used instead of fashion and it was run by the Ministry of Light Industry controlled by the Fashion Planning Committee. The officials did not care about the design of the clothes often they would fall asleep during the presentations of them. Fashion brands the way we know them today did not exist. The Department of Clothing Industry would only supply 10% of the market need. In reality, it meant there was nothing in the stores for ages, occasionally goods were sent to the stores which would create massive demand and aggressive queues. The shop assistants were terrified confronting greedy customers.

Drop of goods, Communism in Poland
Queues during Communism in Poland

People on Polish streets looked like they were wearing working uniforms. The dullness of the design brought the need for individuality. Polish women were making new garments out of the existing one. Skirts were made out of old trousers, summer shoes out of the runners, tops were made out of a baby cotton diapers. Despite the obstacles, they say Polish women were very well dressed those days, they made the streets more vibrant. Limitation made it more desired and innovative.

Barbar Hoff, Przekrój, 1960
Barbara Hoff, Przekrój, 1960

Jeans symbolised freedom and western lifestyle, but only the very fortunate had a chance to own a pair. Wearing jeans was a manifestation of a disagreement with the current system. Authorities would shave heads of young guys with long hair, it was seen as immoral western influence.

Woman in a pair of jeans, somewhere in Communistic Poland


Barbara Hoff is a Polish fashion journalist and a costume designer. During the Communism, she became the most popular fashion designer and the only one who managed to create her own line outside the central planning.

Projekt Barbary Hoff
Designed by Barbara Hoff
Projekt Barbary Hoff
Designed by Barbara Hoff

I had such a feeling that I change something in Poland. I thought that fashion would open people’s heads a little because, under the influence of socialist doctrine, people began to shut their minds. It seemed to me that if society would know about fashion, it would change mentally in some way. Fashion was my idea to change Poland. I always had the feeling that an intelligent man has a duty to do something for his country. This is his responsibility. I based my fight against socialism on fashion. I could have come up with something else, it just happened. As it is now said, it seems unreal, funny, even pompous, but it was! – Barbara Hoff (source)

All images are linked to the original sources.

Written by: Aleksandra Walkowska

A. Walkowska