A rough, concrete bathtub was left behind for decades in a corner of a Warsaw backyard.
The massive, uncomfortable tub was made in the Stalin era amid the Korean War and supply shortages. Like many technologies in the former Soviet-bloc, it was built for necessity, not comfort.
The tub is a funny relic from Poland? communist past and a reminder of how communist industry proved so ineffectual it was often surreal.
But this year, as Poland celebrates the 20th anniversary of communism? fall, the owner is digging out the tub to submit for a contest at the Polish History Museum.
While most people can picture the USSR? massive, polluting factories and heavy industries like coal or steel, fewer people know about technology? little absurdities under the regime.
And it? the comic and odd objects the museum hopes to collect for a book or possible display on communism? ?nti-technology.?br />
It? especially important to gather the material now, said Michal Kopczynski, head of the museum? research department, before it becomes distant history.
?his technology and organization isn? very well documented,?Kopczynski said, ?nd we want to gather these now, while the people who lived during that time are still alive.?br />
Contest submissions can be technology, like a machine invented to throw rocks into coal to speed up production when coal purity didn? matter.
Contestants can also submit tales of labor practices, like the way factory cars were disassembled when supplies were short so they could be put together again and falsely raise numbers on the assembly line.
The idea for the contest comes from technical historian Boleslaw Orlowski, who has written of communist-era ?nti-technology,?or 貞olutions that are not logical.
?hat mattered is that you produced how much the central command wanted,?Kopczynski said. ?hether you sold things or not, it didn? matter. It was a system of shortages, so you could produce low quality and it would still sell.?br />
The competition comes at a time when enough years have passed for Poles to see the humor of life under the regime. While the subject still raises emotions, Poles can now look back with more distance.
?here? a tendency to look at that era in two ways,?said Robert Kostro, the museum? director. ?ou can denounce it and look at it from the point of view of terror, or sentimentalize it and remember the funny or absurd things. You can? look at that period only through the prism of repression.?br />
Interest in communist daily life has surfaced recently with several new books that focus more on the era? clumsy washing machines and orange soda than on historical events.
Varsovians now take walking tours through socio-realist neighborhoods that were once dismissed as dull, while the 20th anniversary of communism? fall brings concerts, historic re-enactments and debates.
Kostro says it? the responsibility of museums to preserve those memories now, so young people can understand the ?tarting point?of modern Polish democracy.
But the core of the contest wants to explain why the Soviet bloc lagged behind in progress for half a century and why it ultimately failed to inspire people.
Former government spokesman Jerzy Urban, one of the regime? most disliked figures, had an explanation for the era? slow production and worker apathy.
?rban said in Poland people are so demoralized that no type of system would help,?Kopczynski said.
? was reading at the time about Henry Ford? assembly line and how they said Poles made the best workers,?he said. ?nd I thought who was right, Jerzy Urban or Henry Ford?
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