Note: My husband, Richard and I moved to Warsaw, Poland, where he served as pastor of the Warsaw International Church for four years. One of the first letters I wrote:
18 September 1989
I will send a headliner until I have time to cover all the news in depth.
We are here comfortably ensconced in our third floor flat (if you’re British). Yesterday afternoon we moved rugs and furniture around so that it now feels more like ours. Probably if the furniture had been this way to start with, we’d have moved it the other way, but one has to redo any nest to get it feeling right.
Last night we sat in our newly arranged living room with our tea playing Scrabble and the radio playing on a Polish station. It plays very nice music some of the time and sometimes it’s just talk, which we cannot understand, of course, but the voices are pleasant and well-modulated. They may be talking about the music, selling communism, political lectures, talking about great books, or telling jokes.
Shopping here is a major occupation and sometimes a chore, I would guess. I understand that most Polish women spend two hours a day shopping. Tomorrow, I’m to have my first outing at a Polish supermarket. I’m told one must often wait to get a basket or cart. That’s how they control the number of people in the store. Then you must ask for what you want and decide if you want it. Then you are given a slip of paper to take to another person and place to pay for your items.
Saturday, Richard and I went exploring up a major shopping street near us. We finally bought some apples from an older lady on a corner—drops I think that she found. They were cheap. Then we purchased cauliflower, onions, carrots, dried peas, lettuce, tomatoes and some flowers. We got home and figured we’d spent about fifty cents.
Today I bought a large plant, bread rolls and a crystal vase. In all, I spent 17,600 złoty, or about $1.75. I changed $100 bill for 970,000 złoty. It’s a real lesson in a different economic system.
Note: When we left four years later, Poland had gone from a state system to a private system. These amazing prices had gone away. For Polish low wage earners, it was causing problems.