Ladies and gentlemen, we live in the times when people travel making use of the possibilities of having various means of transport. There are trips for lonely people travelling to the most remote corners of the world- this is for the courageous and the pretty curly ones. I used to be one of them myself. There are also those who prefer having everything organised. That’s why travel offices that spring up like mushrooms compete with one another. And how it was in Poland in PPR time?

Who doesn’t like travelling?

Nowadays it’s easier to travel as the borders are open and the world is one global village to which all doors are wide open. I must admit I sometimes envy young people that when I was their age my generation 60+ didn’t have such possibilities, but still being curious for the world and longing for adventures we looked for different ways to fulfil our dreams for adventure.

I think there are few people who wouldn’t like to travel if we asked them, but sometimes, for different reasons, nobody helped them or properly encouraged. Surely it’s important to instil in children from their early age this bag for getting to know places other than the one they live in. It also happens, however, that kids don’t know the history of their hometown because nobody told them anything about it.

Holidays in PPR 

I am a teacher with over 30-year experience in this profession. I’ve worked with students at different levels of education. I’ve noticed that teachers used to organise trips and the so-called schools in the open air. It used to be a great lesson of history, geography while getting to know your students and integrate with them. Parents often used to get engaged though they weren’t richer than nowadays, quite on the contrary, they were even poorer. Despite that they were always willing to participate in organisation of any kind of activity for their kids.

Photo : Children at summer camp , 1982 . ; Author : Alexander Jałosiński ; Source: nowahistoria.interia.pl
Photo : Children at summer camp , 1982 . ; Author : Alexander Jałosiński ; Source: nowahistoria.interia.pl

If you come back to the memories from your school years in PPR, you’ll admit that it was a great time which you remember with a fondness now. School trips educated, brought up and provided fun. Why did it all change in the recent years for worse? I wonder myself what the reason for it can be. Perhaps you can tell me.

Photo : Resort, 1974 . ; Author : T. Hermańczyk ; Source: e-boszkowo.pl
Photo : Resort, 1974 . ; Author : T. Hermańczyk ; Source: e-boszkowo.pl

And how did holiday trips look like in PPR? I wanted to share my memories and observations with you from that time concerning summer holidays for children and young people which we were treated to by our Polish government in People’s Republic of Poland (Polish: PRL).

Camps organized by workplaces in PPR

If I think of summer trips, I see the difference. During my studies and right after my secondary school, having finished a preparatory course for a summer camp counsellor, I went to summer camps organised by employment institutions. Either they owned some camping facilities or not, summer holidays for Polish children and youth were organised at schools, small cottages or big military tents. Counsellors had their space separated with a curtain, so they could have an eye on their group of campers all the time. Day schedule was set in advance: gymnastics, morning assembly, reporting to counsellors by group leaders, making order in the room and waiting for breakfast. Later there were some activities, dinner, individual groups in turn had their duties in a canteen, quiet hours after dinner, afternoon snack, activities and classes, supper, some activities again and a night curfew. We were obliged to keep discipline and order. Special committee checked the order in rooms and gave points exchanged for prizes later. It paid off to be competitive.

11. namioty

Morning assemblies, during which a group leader reported to a camp supervisor about their group, were very important issue parts of the routine. The key element during such assemblies was hoisting a flag. The flag was very important as other camp might have stolen it at night and then it would have to be bought out or rescued in a secret mission. That’s why night watches were organised and it was absolutely joyous.

Living in harmony with nature and fun

Sitting quietly and listening only to frogs croaking, if a lake was in the vicinity, the night watch almost like soldiers on duty protected the flag so that nobody could hook it. Of course there some differences between leisure summer camps, bivouacking camps and scouting camps. Living conditions were not of a highest standard but good food, fun and adventure compensated all.

Photo : Colonies Zachem in Tuczno , from the Archives Zachem ; Source: bydgoszcz.wyborcza.pl
Photo : Colonies Zachem in Tuczno , from the Archives Zachem ; Source: bydgoszcz.wyborcza.pl

I have just remembered one more thing. Our physiological needs were dealt with in some wooden latrine. If summer camps were organised at schools than we had a WC. And how do you like it? Would you like to spend summer this way? It used to be a routine in PPR time in Poland. Today there are some survival camps in fashion but as it’s not my cup of tea at all I’ll go on to further memories.

Changes after 1989

After 1989 everything changed in Poland. Travel agencies and offices took over the function of summer camps organisers and most of camps were located in guest-houses. They were of different standards as well as the organisers wanted to get rich very quickly. We started adopting western patterns but our youth got less self-disciplined. Young people changed their sphere of interests. It was difficult to make them do some gymnastics and they didn’t even want to come down for breakfast as they preferred to sleep longer or order pizza. Especially as they went to bed late and constantly tried to figure out how to deceive their camp counsellor. Some teens tried to sneak out of their room and get to the other, such typical hide and seek games between boys and girls. A discotheque was the biggest fun. Both boys and girls competed greatly to find the best way to outsmart their counsellors, e.g. by smuggling alcohol in juices. Unluckily for them, a counsellor’s watchful eye always confiscated those liquors, as good fun was supposed to be without percentages.

When an organiser honestly transferred financial resources for camp activities, they were interesting and the time passed quickly and nicely, and youth were happy as well.  Surely it depended  a lot on good relations between the staff and campers as it is holiday and this time should be spent nicely. Some adventures are necessary as well to have something to talk about with friends after returning home. Such a short reference to student’s backyard.

Do you remember those times in Poland? Have you ever heard about living in PPR time? Who of you wasn’t in a colony or camp? Or maybe someone was a Boy Scout? I encourage you to share your memories in comments.

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