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Czechoslovak Seafarers’ Memories of Polish Ports as their “Second Home” during the State Socialism Period (1949–1989)
Czechoslovakia began to develop its ocean fleet after the communist coup d’état in 1948. Prague was designated as the place of registration for these ships. From a practical point of view, however, it was necessary for the Czechoslovak fleet to reach a port located as close as possible to the Czechoslovak border. Szczecin (located 298 km from the border) became the base for the fleet not only due to the political circumstances of the Cold War but also for economic reasons. While Hamburg remained a vital harbor for international trade where “East meets West,” Polish ports were used not only for loading and unloading goods and transporting them to the republic but also to supply ships, change crews, carry out most shipyard maintenance, etc. Consequently, Czechoslovak seafarers themselves called Szczecin their “home port.” Numerous aspects of this perception as “home” will be reflected on in this paper. Specifically, the paper will touch on perceptions of Poles (mainly seafarers and dock workers), some aspects of the relationships among Czechoslovaks and Poles, including a discussion of some important historical issues (1968, the 1980s) in this area. This paper is based on archival sources, oral history interviews with former seafarers, and published memoirs. It should contribute to broader research and understanding of relationships among people living in various parts of the socialist block and show different images of life under socialism(s).
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