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Deceptive calm lies over Poland, with 'something' in the air

The excitement of the papal visit has subsided quickly and life goes on quietly enough under the summer sunshine as Poland waits . . . for what? Lech Walesa's squabble with his employers over when he should take his vacation aroused little interest. For so many it is a question whether they can afford one at all.

The food markets, though improved, are still tight enough for all but the ''free-market-size'' purses.

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The pretty dresses and the pantaloons - right up with Western models - belie the paucity of the shops but testify to Polish girls resourcefulness and taste.

So life looks pretty normal. Most Poles, when asked, prefer to perch on their own professed indifference. On both sides of the political spectrum, they deny that they expect ''something'' to happen either as a result of the Pope's visit or because the government feels stronger and may be ready to be ''generous'' because of it.

Nonetheless, there is a certain expectation in the air, if only that - as the government itself has now specifically indicated - martial law will be finally lifted before the month is out, probably on National Day, July 22.

For the ordinary Pole, an end to martial law will not change much while, for example, the ban on travel abroad remains and hard currency deposits at the bank are still frozen.

Most affected will be the big enterprises which continued under military supervision when martial law was reduced in December.

These wraps will now be taken off and, apparently, the new government-sanctioned unions are expected to exercise some ''controlling'' influence in matters of labor discipline at the workplace.

Whether they can do it remains to be seen.

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Leaders of the new unions claim to have some 2.5 million members - a quarter of the peak allegiance counted by the now-outlawed Solidarity - but the workers' attitude generally is still a watchful waiting to see if the new unions really can be somem improvement on the pre-Solidarity rubber-stamp unions.

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski insists they will be. ''Some people suggest we are not faithful to the [August 1980] agreements [with Solidarity],'' he told a party youth conference at Gdansk July 3. ''It is not so. We are true to the essence of these agreements as a social contract reached with the working class and the healthy current of national life . . . .''

Time and practice will show what the workers can do through their unions. But perhaps it is a sign of possible future clout that the government waived the 1984 deadline for factory unions to join up in federations embracing a whole industry.

The government has found it cannot deal with the thousands of little unions that have sprung up everywhere. It needs the bigger national group as a ''consulting'' and ''bargaining'' partner.

Ending martial law may mean more to the 147 individuals still in prison, either serving political or martial law sentences, awaiting trial, or still detained under the original decrees.

Almost all the original detainees - a matter of fluctuating figures between 3 ,000 and 5,000 - were released since the start of the year. The 147 - the figure given the Pope by the government - is the recalcitrant Solidarity hard-core of activists who either have not asked, or refuse to ask, for clemency.

The question now is whether there will be an amnesty for some or all of these.

There is also the dissident five of the Workers' Committee for Defense, known as KOR. The prosecutor's case was said to have been completed six months ago. But there seems no hurry to bring them into court. The same applies to the seven leading Solidarity detainees who were not freed with the others but held on charges of anti-state activity.

Any decision on amnesty ''will depend on the right situation'' in the country , Justice Minister Sylwester Zawadski has said. He added: ''The Pope's visit - if it speeds the process of normalization - may influence that decision.''

The government's reactions since - though party hard-liners still tenaciously argue the contrary - is that the visit undoubtedly helped.

Most people see a good church-state relationship as the key - in many ways the only - prerequisite to national conciliation and recovery.

That includes the government itself. Its spokesman on religious affairs said recently that to try and establish ''socialism in Poland without the [Roman Catholic] church'' would fly in the face of Polish reality.

An amicable day-to-day relationship has long been established in various fields, as in the free hand the church now has in the building of new churches.

For more than a decade the rate has been about 100 yearly. The two Roman Catholic universities enroll unrestricted numbers of seminarists. One, at Lublin , will shortly start building a 10-story college named after John Paul II.

But martial law posed new issues.

After the Pope's departure, a respected Catholic intellectual saw his country as a ship long adrift, without helm, but possibly now, at last, having a ''chance'' of getting on to a course that could bring it into port.

It is a view - and a widely held one - that it now is up to the government alone to demonstrate in concrete terms and urgent practice that it has more in mind than pacification and normalization - that its promised ''renewal'' is a genuine matter of democratization and economic liberalization.

It is the ''something'' that ordinary people perhaps have in mind. Having been disenchanted before, they deny they are thinking about it, let alone having hopes.

But it could be a last chance for a government which has so far overlooked this mood of the people, whether articulated or not.

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