Coal Mining in Upper Silesia & Heavy Industry in Poland during the Communism

Hard Coal mining as well as other sectors of heavy industry were treated preferentially during the forty years of communism as the most vital and strategic industries for the economy and defense of our country. We were reminded continuously that the work of the miner is extremely important and the coal is our most important natural resource and the export product. Polish power plants were also mainly based on the coal, now it is slowly readjusting to the natural gas which is cleaner than coal.

Until the end of 70-es the progress of our country was linked to the production of steel, according to communistic propaganda. So it order to show the world how well developed Poland is, we had to build new steelworks (Nowa Huta in Krakow and Huta Katowice) in the same time when Japan was developing its car and electronics industries. This development was stimulated by our big neighbor, Soviet Union, especially since we did not have enough iron ores and we had to export it from the East - deepening our dependence on our powerful soviet ally. Read more about it in the article: The Work Ethics in Poland (I); New Class System build by Communists.

Miners are very proud people, here on the picture they are leaving the funeral ceremony of one of their co-worker, dressed in their traditional costumes with hats ornamented with feathers

The high reputation to miners was not only because of the governmental propaganda, miners had a great respect in Polish society as a whole in spite of the fact that the requirements to be a miner was only the accomplishment of a technical school. Being a miner was seen as a "calling" or a vocation, the profession often passed from the father to the son. It even led to some characteristic paternalistic models of Silesian families. The study conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (Centrum Badania Opinii Spolecznej in 1999, CBOS) found that, in the view of the public, coal miners are very high in the hierarchy of different occupations. Miners ranked fifth overall - after university professors, doctors, teachers and judges and ahead of, among others, directors, entrepreneurs, journalists, priests and qualified industrial workers. It is hard for me to believe that priests ranked that low - but the position of businessman or the entrepreneur as well as a political activist was very low during the communism. It was believed that nobody can earn good money from the honest work. Besides, the virtues of spirit and art were considered higher than the practical virtues of just making money.

Barborka (Miner's Day) was a special occasion for almost national celebration with the pompous academies and many miners being awarded with medals and other honorary dyplomas. Read more about it in the article Barborka, Miners' Day (St. Barbara Day), December 4th.
The demand for the coal was so high, that it led to the air pollution problems and the ecological catastrophe in some regions of Silesia. Read more about it as well about how the necessary reduction in mining industry (closing the inefficient mines and reducing the number if workers) is being carried off in Poland in the next article which will be posted very soon.

© by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, article #301)

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