...tasted like plastic.
There is an evocative free gift with this week’s edition of Newsweek Polska. It’s a little box of chocolates.
Inside the period looking box are two chocolates: one is made of real chocolate; the other is made of the ersatz chocolate (czekoladopodobny) that was all most Poles could get hold of during Martial Law, a period of rationing of food stuffs.
A family was allowed one average sized chocolate bar a month. People said that there were less squares of chocolate in the bar than days of the month.
The ersatz chocolate given away by Newsweek must bring back memories in a very tangible way for Poles. What better way to conjure up a memory than by letting people taste it?
I just tried a piece of martial law chocolate. It tasted of plastic. But it also brought back memories of what cheap chocolate tasted like when I was a kid back in London. I am sure I remember that taste of cheapness before.
Many of the people that I know have memories based around what it was like to be a kid back then. Many say the first thing they knew about martial law was when they went to turn on the television on a freezing cold Sunday morning. Instead of seeing the cartoons that were played every week at that time by the one TV channel they had – TVP – they were confronted with the now infamous image of General Jaruzelski. Minus his dark glasses for the momentous occasion he said:
The Fatherland finds itself at the edge of an abyss. ..In this situation, inaction would be a crime against the nation. One must say: Enough. ..Calling on the army can have, and has, only a provisional, extraordinary aspect. .. May this exhausted country, which has already experienced so many catastrophes and so much suffering, not see even one drop of Polish blood spilt. We will, by a common effort, stop the specter of civil war. Let us not build barricades where a bridge is needed.
For kids it must have seemed bewildering, but the meaning of what had just happened was lost on them, thankfully. For their parents, however, it must have left the taste of something much more unpleasant in their mouths than the cheap, plastic chocolate that would be part of the rations during the year long period of clampdowns.
Around 25,000 people were charged with 'crimes against the state' and 90 people were killed during that period.
This is a print of a famous photo taken by Time photographer Chris Niedenthal of a cinema (Kino Moskwa, where Silver Screen now is on ul. Marszalkowska) in Warsaw during martial law. The film showing that week was: Czas Apokalipsy - Apocalypse Now