My childhood from what I remember embraces the end of sixties and the beginning of seventies. The time when communism was still strong in Poland. Communism did pass already its worst period - after the WW II, the unification of the communistic parties, incarceration and even death executions for some non-communists just because they were consider a danger for a communistic regime. The worst Stalin times were over.
I still remember from my childhood the turbulent 1968. It seems that this year was a turnover all around the world especially among young generation. I remember my mother very anguished after coming back home from work - she used to work in downtown of Krakow. She saw police throwing gases into rebellious student protesters.
Then, seventies came with new communistic administration and new propaganda. Our new leader, Edward Gierek, was promising the economical improvement for everybody. New gigantic steelwork was built which was signifying our industrial development. New highways, better salaries, more materialistic society was created. The Polish middle class was promised that everybody could afford a car. The model and affordable car for everybody was Fiat 126p on the license. This car is even smaller from the smallest American sedan Geo Metro but comparable is size to East German Trabant (Trabi).
People (our high-middle class) were able to afford to travel abroad, not only to countries of our "currency zone" like Soviet Union, Hungary, Bulgaria but even to Yugoslavia or Greece.
It seems that finally a communistic system helped to improve standard of life of the average citizen. But, these promises were short-sighted. In the middle on seventies suddenly some cracks appeared. Prices were kept low but the demand for products was exceeding the supply, our government attempted to raise the prices but it caused strikes therefore the government withdrew. The economical situation was being improved by more and more credits taken from abroad. Our propaganda was still focusing on the fact that communism improves standard of life in much higher rate than capitalism. But everybody knew that something was wrong with this picture especially since people started to buy out in panic many food products so that the government began rationing sugar and later another products. The lines of people waiting for food were becoming longer and longer.
What caused this crisis? Investing of huge amount of money in inefficient heavy industry mainly but also the increase of consumptive lifestyle especially among our ruling elite but also among the average citizens.
The election of Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla for a pope John Paul II in 1978, was not only a cheerful event but a boost for our democracy. It helped so much to destroy the Soviet-based communistic system. Our official administration reaction was restrained. But it was a big push to our anti-communistic forces. It was definitively the event which triggered Solidarity movement in 1980.
Check articles about communism in Poland and Polish history.
I recommend three books associated with the themes of this article:
First, written by Timothy Garton Ash, Timothy Garton Ash, entitled: The Polish Revolution: Solidarity (Third Edition)
Second, a famous book written by Tina Rosenberg, entitled: The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism
If you want to understand political, social and economical changed that took place in Poland in the mid-1980 I recommend an excellent book written by Jadwiga Staniszkis entitled: The Dynamics of the Breakthrough in Eastern Europe: The Polish Experience