Retrotechtacular: The Other Kind Of Fallout Show

Thanks to the newly released Amazon Prime series, not to mention nearly 30 years as a wildly successful gaming franchise, Fallout is very much in the zeitgeist these days. But before all that, small-F fallout was on the minds of people living in countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain who would have to deal with the aftermath of a nuclear exchange.

Uwaga! Pył promieniotwórczy  (“Beware! Radioactive Dust”) is a 1965 Polish civil defense film from film studio Wytwórnia Filmów Oświatowych. While the Cold War turning hot was not likely to leave any corner of the planet unscathed, Poland was certainly destined to bear the early brunt of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers, and it was clear that the powers that be wanted to equip any surviving Polish people with the tools needed to deal with their sudden change in circumstances.

The film, narrated in Polish but with subtitles in English, seems mainly aimed at rural populations and is mercifully free of the details of both fallout formation and the potential effects of contact with radioactive dust, save for a couple of shots of what looks like a pretty mild case of cutaneous radiation syndrome.

Defense against fallout seems focused on not inhaling radioactive dust with either respirators or expedient facemasks, and keeping particles outside the house by wearing raincoats and boots, which can be easily cleaned with water. The fact that nowhere in the film is it mentioned that getting fallout on your clothes or in your lungs could be largely avoided by not going outside is telling; farmers really can’t keep things running from the basement.

A lot of time in this brief film is dedicated to preventing food and water from becoming contaminated, and cleaning it off if it does happen to get exposed. We thought the little tin enclosures over the wells were quite clever, as were the ways to transfer water from the well to the house without picking up any contamination. The pros and cons of different foods are covered too — basically, canned foods dobry, boxed foods zły. So, thumbs up for Cram, but you might want to skip the YumYum deviled eggs.

Dealing with the potential for a nuclear apocalypse is necessarily an unpleasant subject, and it’s easy to dismiss the advice of the filmmakers as quaint and outdated, or just an attempt to give the Polish people a sense of false hope. And that may well be, but then again, giving people solid, practical steps they can take will at least give them some agency, and that’s rarely a bad thing.

Thanks to [Patrym] for the tip.

28 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: The Other Kind Of Fallout Show

  1. Some of this advice was implemented into practice on 29.4.1986 when Poland (without being informed by USSR what happened on the previous day) took some action. Among other measures, grazing cows outdoors was forbidden, milk collected the previous day was destroyed, and there were recommendations to give children only condensed or powdered milk and to abstain from fresh fruits and vegetables.

    1. Similar to the Windscale (now Selafield) meltdown where all the milk produced was bought by the UK government and “destroyed” (I believe it was poured into the ocean?).

    2. Except the USSR immediately notified Poles, East Germany, Baltics and other states. It was general Jaruzelski’s idea not to take any action to avoid any social unrest, he wanted to avoid repeat of 1980/1981 when his troops massacred protesting members of Solidarity movement.

      1. The Soviets didn’t tell anybody until 28.April, after Swedish officials contacted them and asked where all the radiation was coming from. The Soviets only announced it after it had become obvious to the entire world that there was a full scale catastrophe in progress. That’s two whole days after it started that the Soviets told anyone about it.

        From Wikipedia:

        >Evacuation began one and a half days before the accident was publicly acknowledged by the Soviet Union. In the morning of 28 April, radiation levels set off alarms at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden, over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from the Chernobyl Plant. Workers at Forsmark reported the case to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, which determined that the radiation had originated elsewhere. That day, the Swedish government contacted the Soviet government to inquire about whether there had been a nuclear accident in the Soviet Union. The Soviets initially denied it, and it was only after the Swedish government suggested they were about to file an official alert with the International Atomic Energy Agency, that the Soviet government admitted that an accident had taken place at Chernobyl.

        1. Wikipedia is not a reliable source. I advise you to watch some documentaries and interviews published by They spoke with liquidators, samosely and even staff of the CzAES. Also, according to our own Institute of National Remembrance, at 5 AM, roughly 4 hours after the disaster polish Sanepid and “chemical hazard liquidation” battalions of People’s Army of Poland were already aware of the disaster, mobilized and started taking preventive measures to limit its consequences on civilians. It was not publicly anounced however, because such an incident could provoke a civil war in country already stuggling to contain its hostile militias – notably illegal “Fighting Solidarity” faction of what used to be Solidarity trade union before its disbanding on 1981.12.13.

          1. Informing _elements_ of your satellite state’s military is not the same thing as ‘notified Poles, East Germany, Baltics and other states.’ That was a lie.

            The chain of command for Polish military ended in Moscow on that date.

            Wikipedia is not a reliable source, that much is very true for anything controversial..

            Bet most of the ‘preventive measures’ where preventing anybody from checking for radiation. To ‘limit it’s consequences on civilians’. Truth is that besides dumping milk there wasn’t much else to do on those dates. Besides ‘deny everything’.

          2. Wikipedia is in fact a reliable source. All sources are provided at the bottom where they can verified. If your defence is attacking Wikipedia as a source the people can’t be blamed for not taking you seriously.

          3. I don’t know the truth of this specific matter but “Wikipedia is not a reliable source” is something that frustrates me to read. Of course it isn’t a source of its own, because the reliable sources are exactly what Wikipedia articles are supposed to cite! When possible they make the source available to the reader, and if the wiki’s sources have themselves cited other sources, you can follow those back too. In this paragraph they referenced Radio Sweden, the Independent, and the New York Times.

          4. Wikipedia is unreliable because they will not include information nor cite good sources they disagree with. While citing unsourced/un-credible websites they agree with.

            Worst, they will cite articles that only cite back to Wikipedia. If it follows the narrative. Abracadabra a new ‘fact’ is kited.
            Three months later, it’s on 10 sites which are all cited as new confirming information.
            Beautifully circular.

          5. That just means when you look at the sources they cited, the chance you find one you don’t trust is higher. It doesn’t change the fact that if Dumbo “Always Wrong” Idiotson tells you that NASA has discovered water on another planet, your opinion of his credibility becomes nearly irrelevant the moment he hands you a copy of NASA’s publication and lets you verify it for yourself.

  2. “…it was clear that the powers that be wanted to equip any surviving Polish people with the tools needed to deal with their sudden change in circumstances”.

    Your writing is _very_ good; even at that, the wryness of the bit I quoted stands out. Kudos!

  3. Gernot and Strudel
    Children are weak and have very small brain
    Gernot and Strudel
    Your body can be trained to not feel pain
    The Ministry of Culture has approved
    Your watching of this show
    If you catch your parents with rock music
    Let the government know
    You’ll work in a factory till the day you die
    Tears are for the French, you are not allowed to cry
    Gernot and Strudel
    Children are weak and have very small brain
    Gernot and Strudel
    Your body can be trained to not feel pain

  4. This old movie is much much better then the Prime show.

    If you are not a particularly dumb middle school boy, you are not the target audience. Avoid.

    ‘Fallout’ is worse than ‘Wheel of Time’. Which I didn’t believe possible.
    Worse than ‘Witcher’.

    The best movie/show made from a game would have been better if Angelina Jolie had just done jumping jacks for 2 hours (on a cold set).

  5. Huh, they got filters and suits? About that same time we had the weekly “Duck and Cover” drills at school (US). You climbed under your plywood desk before the Russian bombs hit. A couple years later they decided we would all go to the central hallway and sit with our back to the wall with arms over our heads (in view of, and less than 20 feet or so from the all glass doors the width of the hallway) as it was more “survivable” than the plywood desks. Good times….

  6. The last Fallout game was released in 2015, which is 9 years ago (as of this comment).
    It definitely hasn’t been “wildly successful” in the last decade.

    We’ve had a moderately successful mobile game since then.
    We also got an awful online-service with Fallout colored branding sprayed onto it’s half-formed carcass, which damaged the “brand” and the studio/publisher, maybe irreparably.

    I have enjoyed the (literal) thousands of hours I have spent in the world of Fallout, but even my glasses aren’t rose tinted enough to call it a “success” anymore.

  7. “… farmers can’t really keep things running from the basement.”

    What exactly is this hypothetical farmer doing out in their field?

    Those crops are contaminated and can’t be eaten.
    They can’t be plowed under either.
    They also can’t be burned.

    That farmer SHOULD be in their basement until it’s clean enough to scrape all the topsoil off and try to restart the farm.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.