Motorisation in Poland between 1945 and 1970

Before 1939, Poland was one of the last countries in Europe in terms of the number of cars per thousand inhabitants. As a result of the war, the fledgling car industry, infrastructure and almost all machinery were destroyed. The Communists, put in power in post-war Poland by their patrons in Moscow, were ideologically opposed to individual motorisation. It was only after the October thaw that the private car ceased to be seen as a symbol of rotten capitalism. To buy a new car, however, you first had to obtain a voucher, and an average Pole had to put aside their entire salary for a couple of years in order to buy the cheapest car on the market – Syrena.

Photo 1.

Launched in 1951 at the Passenger Car Factory (FSO) in Żerań, Warsaw, licensed production of the Soviet Pobeda was intended to meet the demand for passenger cars for government offices, institutions and taxi drivers. Picture of the Warszawa car on the Wrocław Market Square in 1971.

Photo by Zbigniew Nowak (collections of ‘Remembrance and Future’ Centre )

Photo 2.

The mid-1950s saw a slight change of direction in the automotive sector. In 1957, production of the Syrena began at FSO to meet the car needs of selected groups of the population: doctors, engineers and high-ranking workers. A photo from the 1970s shows new Syrena cars being transported by barge to Wrocław.

Photo by Stanisław Kokurewicz (collections of ‘Remembrance and Future’ Centre )

Photo 3.

In November 1967, FSO in Żerań started production of a car that was very modern for the realities of communist Poland – the Polish Fiat 125p, based on an Italian licence. With a price tag that exceeded the six-year income of an average Pole, it was a car for the few. The photo shows a car service station of the ‘Stalmet’ cooperative in Wrocław at 8A Jana Kochanowskiego Street, in 1973.

Photo by Stanisław Kokurewicz (collections of ‘Remembrance and Future’ Centre )

Photo 4.

Despite the ever-increasing number of cars on the road, in the early 1970s owning a car was still out of reach for the average citizen. In 1970, there were 450,000 private cars on the roads of the People’s Republic of Poland, which had a population of 32 million.

At the end of 1973, 23,000 passenger cars were registered in Wrocław.

‘Wieczór Wrocławia’ of 10 December 1973, No. 289, p. 4 (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Periodicals Department)

Photo 5.

Before the start of production of the Polish Fiat 126p, individual motorisation in Poland was based on two-wheelers of domestic production.

‘Młody Technik’ 1965, No. 3 (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Periodicals Department)