New Community College Curriculum Module: Everyday Life under Late Socialism

In Spring 2013, the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw kindly donated three copies of its recently created Kolejka/Queue, an educational board game that tells the story of everyday life in Poland at the tail-end of the communist era. Kolejka simulates the challenges families faced in terms of obtaining consumer products and services in a socialist economy of shortage. It provides players insight into the workings of planning, the informal economy, the system of blat and party patronage, and the state socialist appropriation of private time.

Source: Kolejka Instructions (2011).

To help students gain critical understanding of daily life under socialism, REEEC has recently developed a set of curriculum guides for high school and community college instruction around this game. The individual and group activities ask students to observe the temporal, social, and emotional aspects that defined socialist consumption and invite them to identify the formal characteristics of daily life. Students will also contemplate on how people’s subjective experience varied based on their membership in a particular social category and the kinds of goods/services they sought to obtain. Lastly, in the framework of a class role-play, they will consider socialist democracy at work and compile a prioritized list of reforms to meet the demands of their “wider socialist society”.

The module fulfills Illinois State Goals 16.A.5a-b and National Social Studies Standards in World History for the 20th Century Since 1945. The lesson plans are accompanied by a bibliography of recent scholarly literature on everyday life and a list of additional instructional resources (relevant works of fiction, printed primary sources, documentaries, motion pictures, digital photo archives, websites, blogs and other lesson plans). For additional instructional materials and opportunities for curriculum development, please consult our page For Teachers or subscribe to our K-12 listserv at

Zsuzsánna Magdó is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Department of History. Her research interests include modern eastern Europe, nationalism, minorities, religion, state socialism, utopian thought and practice.  She expects to defend her dissertation “Inventing a Godless Nation: State Atheism and Socialist Culture in Romania, 1948-1989” in May 2015.

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