One of the most impressive and humbling aspects of some people living under oppression is their capacity to crack jokes about it.  I am known for having a sense of humour, but in this I would fail and simply sink into abject misery and fear.  First up, the Poles, getting to know their new Stalinist masters in the 1920s.  They soon learned that:

‘There are three categories of people in the Soviet Union: those who have been in jail, those who are in jail, and those who will be in jail’.

Poles began to joke that the initials of the Soviet secret police, NKVD, stood for the Polish words for ‘Impossible to tell when I will return home’.

Source: The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred, Niall Ferguson (Penguin: 2007 [Allen Lane, 2006]), p. 418


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