Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Potato Campaign

Ulica Goworka, Warsaw, 1958
For the drivers from the Provisions Cooperative, the bane of our existence was the so-called "potato campaign." In those days we had to travel the countryside for potatoes, though there was nobody to sell them to. We, the Warsaw drivers, found a con. We'd go "campaigning" with a dozen or so trucks; the better vehicles pull the weaker ones. The odometer ticked off the kilometers, and then we sold the gasoline to private drivers. I was eighteen years old then. Today, I'm not ashamed of it. Let those who forced me into it be ashamed. Working fourteen hours a day, including weekends and holidays, I made about seven hundred zlotys* a month. I didn't have an apartment; I lived in a hallway. I bought my first suit at the age of twenty-two. Today I don't even need a suit. I've got nowhere to go.

From Beautiful Twentysomethings (Piękni dwudziestoletniby Marek Hłasko.

Hłasko was a Polish novelist and short story writer, born in 1934 and exiled for his writing in 1958. He died in 1969. His autobiography has just been released in English translation by Ross Ufberg by Northern Illinois University Press.

(*In 1954, 700 Polish was worth about $220.)

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