The aim of this study is to arrive at a holistic understanding of Poland’s place in the Soviet Bloc,1945–1989. The study considers historical, cultural, economic, and political linkages between Poland and Russia, drawing parallels and contrasts which have shaped the destinies of both nations. It explains how Poland became part of the Soviet system, the successes and failures of the system, and how common people adapted to and eventually altered the system. Special emphasis is placed on the ‘lived experience’ of the last decade of socialism (1979 – 1989) including subsistence economic strategies, black market trading, alternative employment scenarios, parallel political action, and samizdat communications. The study is informed through interview data, oral histories, and direct communications with over 50 individuals, mainly in the cities of Gdańsk, on the Baltic Coast, and Wałbrzych,400 miles south on the Polish – Czech border.