Saturday, April 29, 2017
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Polish dollars: did they really exist?

In spite of the fact that Poland was behind an iron curtain Poles always had their way to travel abroad or keep in touch with the family and friends in the countries behind the curtain. Poles were travelling abroad and work there legally or illegally, they also were receiving some gifts from family or friends, therefore the Polish government tried to gather these "good" money up (channel it up) by various means. One of the more efficient way was the establishment of the chain state-run Pewex stores in major Polish cities and towns. In these stores the goods - either Polish or foreign origin could be bought only with hard currency or by so called Polish dollar checks (bony towarowe PekaO). PeKaO is the abbreviation from Polska Kasa Opieki - Polish Saving Bank.

Bon towarowy of the value 10 dollarsDuring the 50s any strong currency transfer was forbidden, only since early 60-es people were able to store their hard currency in the Polish banks and then if they wanted to take it out it was given to them only in Polish dollar checks. Polish citizens working on behalf of Polish companies abroad or these who were sent legally some money transfers (donations, gifts or inheritances) received only the equivalent of the dollars in Polish dollar checks.

The chain of stores "Pewex" gained its significance in 70-es when it was very difficult to buy many regular products in the state-run stores. Polish vodka, cigarettes and also many products that were available only in rationed sale could be easily bought in Pewex in that time. The black market course of Polish currency and dollar was correlated with the price of Polish vodka in Pewex stores as compared in the Polish stores. The price of vodka was kept high in the Polish stores as a prevention against people drinking too much. The black market course for Polish dollar was always a bit lower than for the real dollar since its potential was also lower. If the foreigner went to the Pewex store for instance to buy a pair of jeans for its Deutsche Marks (DM) the change was given to him in Polish dollars. There was also another branch of the dollar-stores run at the seashore mainly for marines and fishermen, called Baltona.

The Polish dollar lost completely its significance and value in 1989 when the first new non-communistic government with its finance minister, Leszek Balcerowicz established the high official rate of exchange between dollars and zloty, so high that it ruined black market exchange course. This government also made it legal to exchange the currencies. The Pewex stores became useless also because many products unavailable before were becoming more and more accessible when the fixed prices were freed.


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