Poland's youth drown out repressions with punk rock
Warsaw — ''I once went to school. But they expelled me because I could not come to terms with the boarding-school master. ''I grew up on the streets. Society made a punk of me. Our ideals degenerated. . . .''
A Polish teen-ager was telling the weekly paper Polityka why he joined so many young Poles who have become punks, hippies, followers of eccentric life styles and hard rock music and, tragically, in too many cases, drug addicts.
Polish youth today is a strange mixture of what often is too lightly dismissed as a ''lost'' generation. It seems in large part much more a generation of withdrawal, with many students taking less interest in political activity. This withdrawal is expressed in many ways - some of them even perverted or violent. But more often their feelings are shown in commitment to religious and spiritual values, as well as rejection of present-day society and government.
Many do not have jobs. Or even if they have the skills required for good jobs , they opt for jobs in small, obscure workshops or take positions with for small private traders where red-painted hair or hobnail-covered jackets won't be noticed. They earn just enough to live.
The rest of their time is spent around the scores of so-called student clubs and hippie centers that have mushroomed in Warsaw and the bigger rural towns in the last five years. Some of these establishments are venues for serious rock groups, but many are no more than sleazy joints where drugs or drug substitutes - like the ''heroin'' made from poppy stalks - can be obtained.
There appear to be three types of Polish punks: ''killers'' who paint their lips black and put yellow ornaments on their cheeks to proclaim their nihilism; the ''skins'' who often shave sections of their head or dye their hair; and the ''normals'' who just ''dress up.''
Many join pilgrimages to the Roman Catholic shrine at Jasna Gora. Many display strong antiwar feelings and wear symbols of peace. Others flout all organized authority as having nothing to offer them but political slogans and half-truths.
They strike one as opters-out rather than dropouts, as communist authority is prone to label them.
''What must a person have to become a hippie?'' one youth was asked.
''Pacifist convictions and concern for mankind,'' he said. Asked how he manifested these values, he answered: ''For instance, by taking part in a pilgrimage to Czestochowa. . . . See here, I wear a John Lennon badge and he fought for peace. I want more or less the same.''
Their peace convictions leave their mark on punk music.
One rock group called itself ''SS-20'' - a type of Soviet missile - until the censor stepped in. The group renamed itself ''Deserter'' and is still going strong.
Youth pacifism is paralleled by social-political protest. The punk movement hit Poland from the West in the late 1970s. But the Polish breed now feels itself superior.
''Those in Britain sing 'no future,' '' a vocalist in a well-known rock group told a London reporter, ''but I'd like to be on welfare payments there! If you want to know what is 'no future,' come to Poland!''
''If you are 20,'' says another, ''you won't get a flat until you're 40. Study for what? Work for what?''
The bitterness is not a punk-rock monopoly. It also runs deep - but without the nihilism and cynicism - among the many students who prove themselves at their universities, graduate well, and then find few or no jobs available in the disciplines for which they've studied for five years and more.
From the government's point of view, the punk movement presents a serious problem. A recent official report states that some 250,000 Poles use drugs. At least 12,000 are registered addicts - some as young as age 12. The government is trying to stem drug use by preparing several million leaflets for distribution through schools and recreation centers.
There is a problem also of alcoholism. In a traditionally hard-drinking nation that steadily drinks more, more than half of Polish youth are said to use alcohol.
But politically more serious for the authorities is the alienation of a very large and intelligent proportion, if not a majority, of this present generation.
The size of this group inevitably increased since martial law. The rock movement flourished in the brief Solidarity era and so did youth's hopes. After martial law was imposed on Dec. 13, 1981, the groups boomed despite curfew and the year-long ban on youth associations and recreation centers.
Simultaneously, the numbers of punks and hippies grew and still seems to be growing. And where there are punks, there is punk rock.
Playing in a rock group is ''a very good thing to do,'' said one. ''Problems disappear. You tell yourself there were no shoes in the shops today, but not to worry. You can still use the ones with holes.
''[Rock] reduces the importance of daily sorrows. When you walk on the stage it makes you forget that you live. . . . And after, you remember the joy of the concert and transplant it into life. . . .''