The everyday Maluch

Owning a car was the dream of millions of citizens of the People’s Republic of Poland, as it allowed them to taste the freedom that was so rare in the country, and to feel a bit like a Westerner, if only for a moment. However, the everyday life of car owners in the 1970s and 1980s was not so rosy. They had to contend with problems familiar in capitalist countries, such as traffic jams and parking problems, as well as those typical of socialism, such as a shortage of spare parts and, in the last decade of communist Poland, a shortage of petrol.

Photo 1.

Changing a tyre in a Maluch at the crossroads of Świdnicka and then Gen. Karola Świerczewskiego Streets (currently marsz. Józefa Piłsudskiego Street). The number plate – based on a pre-1976 model – indicates that the unlucky driver came from Legnica Poviat.

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

Photo 2, 3.

Along with the Fiat 126p, numerous books for its owners have appeared on the market. The work of Zbigniew Klimecki and Roman Podolak Jeżdżę samochodem Polski Fiat 126p (I drive a Polish Fiat 126p) was published in more than a dozen editions.

Covers of books dedicated to Maluch car owners (collection of Piotr Sroka)

Photo 4.

Hand wash…

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

Photo 5.

…or automatic wash?

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

Photo 6.

When Fiat 126p cars filled Polish streets, roads and car parks, many owners tried to give their vehicles a personal touch, like this Maluch owner, photographed next to his car on Kazimierza Wielkiego Street in 1978. The number plate reflected the new administrative division of Poland introduced three years earlier.

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

Photo 7.

As the number of Fiat 126p cars increased, so did the plague of thefts, both of whole cars and parts. The most important factor was the chronic shortage of spare parts. Polmozbyt offered car owners, among other things, to buy an electronic anti-theft device.

‘Słowo Polskie’ of 3 June 1975, No. 126, p. 4 (collections of the Ossolineum Library / Periodicals Department)