It's our second visit to Poland. The first time we were in this country was 43 years ago, 1971. We were much younger and we were highly interested how life really was for the ordinary man behind the “Iron Curtain”, that was there in all it's dark and threatening cold war status. We must have been one of the very few tourists to travel to this country in that era.
We had to prepare the journey very carefully. Visas were difficultly obtained and expensive. You had to state beforehand how many days you intended to stay in the country, as one was obliged to spend a minimum amount of money per day and buy vouchers to that amount at the embassy before you left.
We travelled in our little red Renault 4 and there were the checks at the borders between West and East Gemany at Helmstedt, into West Berlin at Drewitz, then again out of West Berlin at Heinrich Heine Strasse and again out of the GDR at Frankfurt an der Oder and into Poland at Slubice. Each time mirrors under the car, unloading of luggage on to the street, thorough examinations of the travel documents, all by frowning and unfriendly border guards.
In Poland we experienced that shops had little for sale. “Niema” is the word we remember, “not present”, we don't have it. We saw houses in bad shape and hardly any paint, many drunks in the streets (mostly in the morning!). Food was hard to get, both of us lost 4 kilos of weight during our 18 days stay. We also saw that some people had motor boats on the Masurian lakes, military families. Most people had nothing. We saw with our own eyes how the socialist utopia worked out in practice.
During our current trip we saw the workings of the EU co-operation. Differences between our countries have faded and we are extremely happy to see that.
How good would it be if all Europeans, many of whom are now so critical about the European co-operation, would realize how the world was just some years ago and how it has changed. If everyone would realize how it was, where we come from, and what has been acheived in a lifetime. To be more precise, in my very own lifetime (born 1945). From killing each other by the millions in WW II to sharing great freedom and peace with hundreds of millions in this continent. It would only be wise to cherish this.