Vera & Donald Blinken Open Society Archives
Polish Underground Ephemera
This collection consists of 372 digitized objects – stamps, envelopes, postmarks and postcards, calendars, photos, fliers, posters and fake banknotes – produced and distributed by the Polish underground movement in the 1980s and preserved by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Polish Underground Publications Unit. This unit was the first RFE/RL national section dedicated to the underground press, established in March 1984 and led by section chief Witold Pronobis and chief archivist Anna Pomian.
Items in the collection were originally obtained by the Polish Underground Publications Unit through private donations and barter. Materials were often produced in more than one form, and used clearly recognizable and accessible images, often borrowing from political (Solidarity and other opposition groups), national and religious iconography. A significant portion of the collection is comprised of items produced within the underground postage system operated from 1981 onwards, and which was unique to Poland. The expansion of underground political activity and improvements to printing techniques took place in tandem. It is estimated that in 1986 alone, around 200 sets of stamps were produced in print runs of 5,000-10,000 each. Stamps often served as fundraising means for various initiatives, and became popular collectors' items not only for underground activists but also among the population at large.