When I was a student (mid 1970’s) Poland was still under the influence of the Soviet Union, the Polish United Workers Party was in fact a communist regime and the 1 of May was the natural choice to celebrate the idea of hard working people trying to create the best of the world’s classless and free society. So here are a few memories from that era.
The weather was usually nice, early spring in Poland usually is. With the forces of nature on our side, the right side, there was nothing to stop the citizens, workers, farmers, school children, students and intelligentsia not to mention movie stars and popular actors to happily march on the streets of major Polish towns, hand in hand, waving flowers and national flags in front of the local authorities, party members watching the happy crowds from platforms above and waving back. The largest parade was in Warsaw, where one of the main streets (Marszałkowska) was the scene of the largest “pochód pierwszomajowy” in Poland.
University students had to take part in this event, I was once failed in gym for not attending. The next year me and my buddies got smart, we signed up for the gathering and as soon as we entered area of the Saxon Garden, we quit the happy and rejoicing conduct. The crowds, and those were still numerous, were moving slowly towards the climax, the huge plaza in front of the Palace of Culture and Science (a gift to Polish people from the Soviet people constructed in mid 1950’s) where on a huge, concrete and very solid stands, the tribunes, heads of the Party and local authorities happily observed their subjects.
The organisers of the event heated up the public through pa systems mounted on the lamp posts, with party slogans and long live whoever chants. TV cameras were there and if you were lucky, your face could be seen by millions all over the world, well at least the Soviet world. There was no internet and the selfies posted on fb so there was your chance. To the unexperienced ones and for those who do not remember the old days: Polish tv (only 2 channels available, no joke) showed the happy crowds in live feeds, starting with the Red Square in Moscow and moved on to other “friendly capitals” from the early morning to late afternoon.
The rumors were, that little children were sent to the party bosses with bouquets of flowers, first passing through security. Love and kisses from the youngest – not really – there were notes and letters asking for favours to their parents, for example to speed up procedures in obtaining a flat or similar requests. Probably just rumors they were. Late afternoon, streets left dirty with papers, balloons, circus left the town, next day it was business as usual, the shortages of food and commodities, the brotherhood of man, the commons and the rulers united, broke like a soap bubble. Until the next 1st of May.
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