Poland's sausage link to political calm
There was kielbasa at the Szczecin airport canteen when we arrived - plenty of it.
This slim, crispy sausage is a special favorite of Poles. It is supposed to be rationed and is scarce in Warsaw just now. But in Szczecin, you could buy it by the yard.
At the government offices, the regional governor, Stanislaw Malec, explained how this Baltic port city - which ranks with Gdansk as a former Solidarity stronghold - could seem better off than the capital.
Szczecin, a sprawling mercantile city and province near the Oder River, is known for its Adolf Warski shipyard, which builds vessels for nations around the globe and its docks and harbor, which bristle with derricks hoisting goods into or out of ships under many flags.
The province is also one of the richest agricultural centers in Poland. Strong on grains and cattle, it has some of the biggest state farms - up to 30, 000 acres. Even now it produces more meat than any other region in the country.
Grain harvests on the state farms and cooperatives are up 15 percent, Mr. Malec said, and the province will sell state agencies 70 percent more than in crisis-ridden 1981.
''That's why we do not have meat lines,'' he said, ''and no problems in supplying the population of the city (400,000) with meat products.''
The state farms have 900,000 acres, 70 percent of all arable land. Mr. Malec attributes their success largely to technology and breeding stock from West Germany, Italy, and the United States. He would reveal no current production figures. They are ''a state secret,'' he says, presumably because of martial law.
According to the last official statistics book printed here, meat production was 115,000 tons in 1980, almost as much as the central government recently said it had for the whole country for the next month or so.
This year's production will surely be less, but Mr. Malec claims the province is feeding its people the national per capita ration, with a surplus going to other parts of Poland.
''If production everywhere matched ours,'' he says, ''we could at once abolish rationing.''
Nevertheless, there were long lines outside butchers' shops here. A cabbie said the 21/2 kilos (5.5 pounds) on the ordinary person's card - heavy workers get more - was available but was mostly of lesser quality. One still queues for better cuts.
The cattle herds here have not felt much effect from the American trade sanctions since martial law began nearly 10 months ago. But at nearby Stargard the country's biggest poultry farm, based entirely on US food technology, was knocked out. ''In the whole region we are not getting a kilo a head per year,'' Malec said.
Malec has been governor only since March and gives the impression he has shed none of the practicality of his worker background. He is deeply involved in applying the government's economic reform - no simple matter even in one of Poland's most productive regions, given the country's disorder. His job includes trying to win the workers' interest in the revival of ''enterprise self-management.'' This self-management by workers, however, is quite limited, compared with Solidarity's sweeping demands of a year ago.
There is some interest, but most workers are reserving judgment until they see what comes of a pending law on the ''independent'' trade unions which will replace Solidarity. Employees' councils have reappeared in only about 3 percent of the country's 5,400 enterprises that had established them by December 1981.
Malec grew up in the construction industry, a background that helps when it comes to talking directly to workers. Even so, suspicion of all leaders - following the revelations of incompetence and bureaucratic privilege in the years leading to the 1980 crisis - put him on the receiving end of piercing questions before workers will listen to what he has to say.
He talks of the authorities' efforts to turn the economy from the former ''command system'' operated from the ministries toward a virtual regional autonomy. Market laws are being introduced, he says.
Back at the airport next day, there was no kielbasa. But from the adjacent military airfield, a Polish Air Force squadron of Soviet MIGs, part of the guard on the postwar frontier, roared overhead in an evening exercise, serving as a reminder of Poland's special place next to the Soviet Union.