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Memoirs of a (Highly) Political Economist

Jan Winiecki

These memoirs portray an individual coping with the adversities and surrealistic qualities of life and work under communism. The author recollects his adolescence, next, how he tried to avoid head-on conflicts, dissented, and how he finally became a known critic of the system. As such, he belonged to a group of advisers to the underground «Solidarity» leadership. His memoirs help to understand the collapse of the communist system and the stormy period of systemic change from a personal perspective. The author participated in these changes as an already well known Sovietologist, as well as through his own on- and off involvements in post-communist transition politics, participating in various advisory bodies (including that advising President Walesa).
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Chapter 1: An Inquisitive Youngster in the Stalinist World


My earliest reminiscences, going back to 1945, were associated with travels from central Poland, where my family lived during the war, to my birthplace, Sopot, on the Baltic coast. My father went ahead of us during the last months of the war, intent on helping to establish Polish administration there, and we joined him in the spring of 1945. The trip of less than 350 km took in these very uncertain times about a week.

The uncertainty did not end upon arrival, either. The so-called Ziemie Zachodnie (Western Lands), allocated to Poland at Yalta by the great powers as a compensation for the loss of almost half of the pre-war Polish territories to the Soviets, were at the time something of a Wild West. There were overlapping Polish and Soviet administrations here and there and the balance of power was very uncertain, indeed.

One day a group of Soviet soldiers arrived and started robbing house after house on our street of whatever movable goods they hoped to take with them back to the Soviet Union. Local Sopot authorities, where my father worked, alerted the Polish security police and we observed a real battle between the Russians and Poles along Kosciuszko Street, where we lived. Interestingly, Poles won, took away the booty from the Russians, but never bothered themselves to return them to their rightful owners…

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