The decade of Gierek

The small Fiat is one of the symbols of Edward Gierek’s decade in power. In the first half of the decade, thanks to loans from the West, Poland experienced a real investment boom and the standard of living of the average citizen rose rapidly. Despite the fact that only a few years later there was a crisis and then an economic crash, the effects of which were felt long after the fall of communism, these few years of Gierek’s prosperity still influence a rather indulgent assessment of his policies.

Photo 1.

Characteristic urban landscape of the late Gierek period.

Photo by Tadeusz Szwed (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Documents of Social Life Department)

Photo 2.

Edward Gierek – former First Secretary of the Voivodeship Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Katowice, who replaced Władysław Gomułka in the highest party post in December 1970 after the tragic events on the coast.

‘Gazeta Robotnicza’ of 21 December 1970, no. 302, p. 1 (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Periodicals Department).

Photo 3.

Compared to his predecessor, Edward Gierek seemed to be a much more open-minded man, and he performed considerably better in official meetings and speeches. These qualities, together with his promises to improve the economic situation of Poles in the first years of his rule, made him very popular. In the photo, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) during his visit to the Lubin mine, accompanied by, among others, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of PZPR in Wrocław, Ludwik Drożdż (on the right).

Photo by Marek Grotowski (collections of ‘Remembrance and Future’ Centre )

Photo 4.

In the 1970s, the post-war baby boom generation came of age, exacerbating Poland’s already difficult housing problem. The way to increase the pace of construction was to build blocks of flats using prefabricated elements, i.e. the large panel system. Between 1971 and 1980, more than 2.4 million flats were built in Poland using this technology, which, despite the questionable quality of the houses built at the time, helped to alleviate the country’s housing shortage. The photo shows the construction of the Dorota II housing estate in Wrocław, 1972.

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

Photo 5.

Edward Gierek’s rule was accompanied by intensive and intrusive propaganda with slogans such as: ‘We are building a second Poland’, ‘For Poland to grow stronger and people to live more prosperously’, or ‘Nation with Party, Party with Nation’. The photo shows a decoration on Kazimierza Wielkiego Street in Wrocław on the occasion of the 7th Congress of PZPR, held in December 1975.

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