Factories as Aid

Penicillin behind the Iron Curtain, 1945-1954
Author: Sławomir Łotysz
Publisher: Warsaw: Aspra JR 2020
ISBN: 978-83-8209-008-6
253 pages


The “Factories as Aid” recounts the story of what was most probably the most significant relief operation provided by UNRRA to European countries ravaged by WWII. Six of them, including Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia, each received one fully equipped penicillin factory. The donated factories were outdated by the time assembly was completed because equipment deliveries were delayed. Due to eroding international relations on the brink of the Cold War, efforts by countries behind the Iron Curtain to acquire newer equipment fell through. The World Health Organization’s intervention was similarly fruitless, so Poland and other communist states left its ranks. This story is presented from the perspectives of both the givers, i.e. international organizations and the nations that supported them, and the beneficiaries, i.e. the governments and societies of the countries receiving aid. It also offers a voice to intermediaries: foreign experts and local specialists who collaborate with them. The integration of these three views is essential not just for a more accurate reconstruction and a more thorough understanding of events. It also offers a chance to acquire a better understanding of the mechanisms that continue to hinder international aid delivery, particularly when sophisticated medical, scientific, and technological expertise is involved.

Summary (in English): PDF

Table of contents (in Polish): PDF


“… the work should be given a high rating. It has a pioneering nature and is innovative in several ways. It is worth highlighting the extremely attentive, extensive archival query, the author’s outstanding knowledge of the relevant literature, and his capacity to interpret it in a competent, and, at the same time, communicative way. The book will serve as a valuable resource for all post-war historians, not just those interested in the history of technology or medicine.”

Professor Krzysztof Kosiński, Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw


In English: Arabas, Iwona. “Book Review: Sławomir Łotysz. Fabryka z darów: Penicylina za żelazną kurtyną 1945-1954. Warszawa: Oficyna Wydawnicza ASPRA-JR, 2020. 249 pp. ISBN: 978-83-8209-008-6” HoST – Journal of History of Science and Technology, vol.16, no.1, 2022, pp.136-138.  DOI: 10.2478/host-2022-0009


Public presentations of the book at seminars  [read more].


Paperbacks and ebooks can be purchased from various online bookstores, including https://bonito.pl/produkt/fabryka-z-darow


Łotysz, Sławomir. Fabryka z darów. Penicylina za żelazną kurtyną 1945-1954. Warsaw: Aspra JR, 2020.

This research was funded by the National Science Centre, Poland, under grant number 2014/13/B/HS3/04951 [read more].