Living in a communist built block, I was not ready for that. I was in shock actually. What shocked me first was the grim appearance (my first time in 1997). They towered in some places like vaults that stood as harbors of immorality and unethical measure. There was literally no parking lot, people were expected to take public transportation and most everyone did. Yet, people wanted and acquired cars... so they parked wherever they could once the few 'parking spots' were taken. Then there was the long clanking ride up to the tenth floor in the what seemed like 'cargo elevator'... smelling like cigarette smoke and alcohol and dog pee. It felt like I was going down into an abyss rather than up to a flat 'apartment'. Once inside, the rooms were sparsely decorated, the toilet closet located usually in the middle of the flat... rather no hallways to speak of and that meant no privacy; though small rooms off the foyer (if you could call it that) had doors that closed, they were thin and had opaque class from top to bottom letting in much sound and light. The toilet closet was often separate from the bathtub area/room. Believe me when I say closet, there was barely enough room to get in and do what you went in to do. The toilet plumbing was exposed and the toilet was usually the same in all flats, a tank that had a long neck and oval seat, the bowel was shallow and had a ledge which often allowed substance to remain even after flushing. Thankfully, the bath tub was in another space adjacent and yet not close to that toilet.
The kitchen cabinets were always rickety and appliances tiny. I thought, no average American could every live like this. Not even the poorest of Americans could imagine living like this. Though I was shocked, I got used to it. I even shared by space with others, who stopped by announced and even stayed over. Soon, communal living became the norm for me. I realized that life was not about things, but about people. I knew people intimately and no one tried to show off... they couldn't anyway. I also liked walking to and from the store, the bread kiosk, the church, school, the park... and even the doctor's office; occasionally, taking public transportation which was another way you could meet/and or get to know someone or know about something. Home-cooked food was way better than eating out and caring for family and attending church on Sunday was normal behavior.
Of course, things began to change in Poland since 97. Since then, a lot more people drive their own cars, and a lot more people live in self - purchased, private owned, new apartments. Malls came on the scene and shopping on Sunday. In fact, if I compare 1997 Warsaw to 2014, it is a different place. Since 1997 life in Poland has begun to sparkle with billboards and glass structures, and so are many other cities and towns. The West came flooding in and cleaned things up, gave people new ideas, new starts, new life. Now, one can notice large privately owned houses enclosed by fences and gates, manicured lawns and no trespassing signs. And, people in Poland like most of Americans are favoring staying in their houses playing games on the computer, texting to neighbors/friends... coming out to get in their SUVs and drive to the mall. Mmm, maybe block living wasn't so bad. Not that I am in favor of communism and living in concrete blocks with bad plumbing but I am in favor of living a real life, enjoying people's company face to face, walking to and from the local store, church and school, home-cooked food and family.