The long occupation of Poland by the USSR was the usual story of socialist oppression, poverty, and desperation, and it seemed at the time like it would never end. But in the 1980s, the spirit of liberation was in the air, and people began taking great risks to move that forward.
One of the best ways to undermine a totalitarian regime is simply to break its monopoly on information, by creating alternative channels through which people can learn what is actually going on. Zbigniew and Sofia Romaszewski were a brave young couple who did just that, establishing an underground radio station at considerable risk.
However, their broadcasts had to be very short. The problem was that the source of the radio broadcasts could be quickly located by electronic surveillance, so they could only broadcast about ten minutes at a time before moving the equipment to a new location. It seemed a nearly hopeless exercise, and an extremely dangerous one for them.
At some point they began to wonder – was this worth it? Was anyone actually listening? If people were, of course, it was huge, because they were a sole voice of truth in a sea of government propaganda. But if they weren’t, they were risking their young lives for nothing.
One night they came up with the idea of asking those listening to blink their lights on and off. They hoped to see a few lights blinking somewhere out in their city of Warsaw. But when they looked out of their window, that was not what they saw. All night, in all of Warsaw, Poland’s largest city, lights everywhere were blinking on and off. The entire city had been listening.
Such efforts were part of a much broader Polish resistance, of course, but it’s notable that Poland was the first Soviet-occupied nation to revolt and declare its independence from the USSR.