Poland's Peculiar Dictatorship:
Gomulka Between Popular Feeling and Soviet Power
WHEN I visited Poland in December 1956, its atmosphere was electric with hopes and fears, uncertainties and expectations. For most of the seventy or eighty thousand Jews still remaining in the country at the time, it is true, there were more fears than hopes. But for the millions of Poles, it seemed that a new epoch of freedom, both individual and national, had dawned. Poets and writers expressed the nation’s feelings in a language once again vivid and vital. Students again laid enthusiastic claim to being the heirs to the national traditions of freedom. The peasants, still the biggest and most powerful social group in Poland, shook off the nightmare of the Soviet-style kolkhoz. And the workers plunged energetically into erecting a network of factory councils, believing that they had at last found the way to industrial democracy. The Church, the spiritual home of 90 per cent of Poland’s population, at one stroke regained not only her old prestige, but most of her extensive privileges, of which the most important was the teaching of the catechism in virtually all the state schools. But above all one felt then that a nation with a heroic and sad history had, under incredibly disadvantageous political and geographical circumstances, fought and won a victory for freedom against one of the greatest power concentrations known to human history.
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