Inspirations from Cracovia – Part II

I apologize for the delay in posting the second installment of my trip to Poland.  This section is particularly inspiring to me for several reasons.  One: I have always had a heart for the Jewish people and their history and Two: I was unexpectedly mesmerized by the Communist aesthetic (which affected Poland’s architecture and art immensely).  First off we start with the photos I took while visiting the Jewish Quarter.

As far back as 1495 the Jewish people of Krakow have inhabited the Jewish Quarter in the old city of Kazimierz.  Up until the Nazi occupation in 1941 it was considered a safe haven for refugees from all over Europe.  When the Nazi’s invaded they set up a “ghetto” for the Jews just north of the existing Jewish Quarter.  Most of the 17,000 inhabitants of the ghetto were killed in concentration camps nearby.  “Schindler’s Factory” is located nearby, as well as other industrial factories, which used the ghetto inhabitants for cheap labor.

Also part of Krakow is the historic suburb of Nowa Huta, created by the Russian Communist Regime on top of former villages that had been in existence since the Neolithic period.

Although the Russian occupation ended Nazi rule in Poland, the Russians did not return control of the country back to it’s citizens, instead taking control until 1989.  The Central Square (seen in the photo with the larger than life digital clock) was renamed “Ronald Reagan Central Square” in honor of our president.  In case you are wondering, that clock was used by the communists as a reminder to the workers of when to take their lunch breaks.  Nowa Huta which means “New Steelworks” was created by the Stalin and the communist party to be the “ideal” communist environment.  Wikipedia has a brief synopsis that I would like to share: “Architecture was an extremely important weapon to the creators of a new social order. It was intended to help to form a socialist theme – the ideas sparking citizens’ consciousness and outlook on life. During this great work, a crucial role fell to an architect who wasn’t perceived as merely an engineer creating streets and edifices, but an “engineer of the human soul“. The general outlook of a building was more valued than its simple aesthetics. It needed to express social ideas, to arouse a feeling of persistence and power.”

The photo on the top left shows a church called Arka Pana (The Lord’s Arc) which was designed by the architects Wojciech Pietrzyk and Jan Grabacki, with the design being influenced by Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut.  The citizens of Nowa Huta were not allowed to build any churches in the new “utopian” environment.  However, Poland has long deep roots in the Catholic Faith so the workers along with the Catholic church, both locally and abroad, began petitioning for permission to build a church.  From 1952 -1977 the Polish people fought and died for a church to be built at this site.  Finally after money and support from outside of Poland began to pour in, the church was built.  A few additional photos are below…this church is absolutely gorgeous and the people’s struggle to have it built is so inspiring!!


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