Revisiting the PRL

Open a box and enter the weird and wonderful world of 80s in Poland.

scroll down

Open a box and enter the weird and wonderful world of 80s in Poland. The shortages of everything you might want to buy in a store, specific mentality of queuing to the stores and the unmistakable modern design are all within reach. And we love it.

Get in the queue kids! The charms of the People’s Republic of Poland are back. PRL (Polska/Polish Republika/Republic Ludowa/People’s) was a nearly 50 years long spell, during which Poland was ruled by one communist party and had its economy centrally planned. There was little or no freedom of expression, as well as little or no food products, clothes, books or records. And if you want to know more, you really ought to ask wikipedia.

General feelings about the era are highly dependant on who you are talking to ranging from blind fury, to quiet acceptance, with a dose of nostalgia here and there.

Now, that the PRL-free generation of the 80s has entered a very capitalistic job market and has some disposable income, the nostalgia of our early childhood becomes a thing of value (yes, a commodity – Marx is spinning in his grave).

“Don’t create hazard. Work without hurry” – recognizable PRL rhetorics, depicted on the Born in PRL website, with buttons “share” and “I remember”.

How can we tell? The cafes and clubs, the design companies and shops are all picking up on the trend. And if there’s anything one can still learn about young demographic from facebook – the newest crop of PRL-dedicated fan pages tells the tale. Bunches of 20 and 30-somethings perv over things of childhood, share, like and exchange memories.

Wigry 3 bike, as liked and shared on the “Pewex” facebook page.

Alas recently, they were joined by the Institute of National Remembrance, an institution entrusted with the enormous task of archiving the heritage of Polish bureaucracy. It usually makes the news when some one prominent is accused of cooperating with communist secret police. But now they made a board game, based on the specific realities of 80s in Poland. It was produced in limited numbers and is now nearly impossible to buy.

“Please be aware that upon opening the box you have entered 1980s Poland… The good news is that you have some savings tucked away. The bad news, however, is that due to shortages, the merchandise is delivered in very limited quantities. Please do not panic and patiently take your place in the queue.”

And that is ironic, because one of the ongoing problems of centrally planned economy is that there was constant shortage of everything. If there was a hunch in the neighborhood that given shop is to have a delivery, a queue would form. These queues developed their own culture, their own societal rules and politics, as well as a legacy of jokes, though these were a bit more tricky. You never knew who was in the queue, and criticizing the government out loud could result in sorry consequences.

The desirables of the 80s: siphon, lemonade, shaver.

Each player receives his own family and a shopping list. The task is to buy all the commodities on the list by placing different family members in line to different shops, jumping queues and exchanging. According to the instruction:

“The subject matter at hand may evoke negative emotions in sensitive individuals. Rare instances of tears of exasperation, the gnashing of teeth, as well as manifestations of gratuitous malice have been observed.”

The Institute decided to release an international version of the game after the first edition got press coverage in some 140 countries. The box comes with 6 instruction booklets, and the English, German, Spanish, Chinese and Russian versions contain stickers one can place on the game elements to “translate” it.

On the day of release, June 28th, the 20s stood in line to the Institute’s shop to get a copy of the Queue.

Submit a comment