Whenever I travel to a country, I first look into its history in order to understand it better. That’s why in Poland I started out by meeting Alicja Wancerz-Gluza, co-founder of the Karta Center, a non-governmental historical archive. The Karta archive has 5,000 books and brochures, about 35,000 newspapers, 300 posters and 1,000 postcards from the underground anti-communist movement. The collection also includes the largest collection of documents from the Solidarnosc trade union, and Alicja proudly shows me a document from UNESCO, confirming that this collection was entered into the international register of world document heritage of UNESCO’s “The Memory of the World” program. Karta collected 6,000 interviews with contemporary witnesses and about 400,000 photographs.
During our conversation, Alicja explains the realities of everyday life in the socialist planned economy in Poland. She shows me the pile of ration cards Polish people needed to buy food and other products until the collapse of the socialist regime in the late 1980s. The first ration cards were for sugar in 1976. But these cards were still around until the end of the 1980s – for all kinds of products, such as meat, fat, butter, detergent, soap, cigarettes, gasoline, and even shoes.