Christmas against Communism, Poland 1981



December 29, 2021 3:13 p.m. ET


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Thomas Swick’s “Christmas in Communist Poland” (editorial, December 24) brings back memories of my first trip to Warsaw, Christmas week 1981. I was new to my job as head of the Eastern European office by First Chicago. My boss accompanied me to introduce me to our three Polish clients, the only three banks in the country.

My boss took an extra-large suitcase. He had a soft spot for Poles and always went to Warsaw on Christmas week to bring gifts to our friends there. The suitcase was filled with luxuries unimaginable for everyday Poles: fine German coffee, Swiss chocolates, Hermes scarves and French perfumes. Everything was individually wrapped so that the recipient could open it in complete privacy, thus avoiding any embarrassment. Of course, they also had freebies for us: things like art books and locally made porcelain and crystal.

During our visit to Narodni (national) bank, we entered the anteroom of the executive office and found a mountain of toilet paper piled up in the middle of the floor. Toilet paper was so scarce that it couldn’t be left in the toilet because it would be stolen instantly. The solution was to periodically hand over a role to each employee for personal use. Welcome to the wonders of communism.

Stephen rs martin

Cave Creek, Arizona.

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