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An intimate prescription for cemetery chaos and tightness. "Forest of memory"—without crosses, tombstones and loss of space

Kuba Głaz
09 of December '22

The first "forest of memory" has been created in one of Poznań's municipal cemeteries. The intimate and pro-ecological enclave will also help solve somewhat the problem of lack of space for new burials. In fact, a recent change in regulations is planned in this regard: the distance of cemeteries from buildings is to decrease.

The place for burial only in biodegradable urns is less than 200 sq. m. of secluded forest area of the municipal cemetery in Poznan's Junikow. Among the mature trees, in front of the space fenced with a low fence, you can see two large stones, on which the relatives of the buried will be able to put the name of the deceased. There are also four benches, an information board and - that's it. Flowers and candles will only be able to be left under the two stones.

Las pamięci, cmentarz komunalny na Junikowie w Poznaniu

Forest of memory, municipal cemetery in Juników, Poznań


leaves rustling and trees humming

The idea is an extension of the already existing "memorial fields" with similar burial rules. These sites, both in Juników and in the other municipal cemetery , Miłostów, are located in an open and heavily used area (e.g. next to an extensive urn field and columbarium). "The Forest of Remembrance" is intended to allow for tranquility and better isolation from noise and other people. As the city of Poznań informs on its portal:

Thanks to the use of the potential of this forest and quiet corner of the necropolis in Juników, the Forest of Remembrance makes it possible to contemplate and remember the dead amid the noise of the trees. Falling leaves and forest litter in autumn are a natural decoration of this special memorial, and at the same time a natural arrangement that does not need to be cleaned, corrected and further decorated.

Las pamięci, cmentarz komunalny na Junikowie w Poznaniu

Forest of remembrance, municipal cemetery in Juników, Poznań


As you can see, cemetery managers, in addition to sentimental aspects, also appeal to economic realities, convenience and changing habits coinciding with the approach to funerals practiced in Western countries. More and more Poles want a modest or even minimalist burial. Some wish to have their ashes scattered after death, but this is still not allowed by regulations. The closest legal solution to this is precisely to place a biodegradable urn in a mass grave, which is formally a "forest of remembrance."

Where to bury?

The benefit to the cemetery manager, on the other hand, is space savings. Fields or forests of remembrance allow a high "density" of burials, and besides—thanks to the rapid decomposition of urns - they will never fill up. There will be no need to enlarge the cemetery, and such a need is becoming more common across the country. "A mass problem" is what Marek Wojcik, board attorney and legislative affairs expert for the Association of Polish Cities, calls this phenomenon. He is quoted by the "Rzeczpospolita" portal in yesterday's text about changes to funeral regulations, which are due to take effect in the middle of next year.

In order to make it easier to find space for new burials, there are plans to loosen the provisions on the distance between a cemetery and a development. The article states that:

A building will be allowed to be erected up to 25 meters from the cemetery walls (if it is connected to the water supply system, and there is a columbarium directly behind the cemetery wall).

Local government officials are moderately satisfied: they would like to see an even greater reduction in distance. They argue that the sanitary regulations of decades ago do not match today's realities—with columbariums that could be located even a few meters from buildings.

Las pamięci, cmentarz komunalny na Junikowie w Poznaniu

Forest of memory, municipal cemetery in Juników, Poznań


Will "forests of remembrance" be—as it sounds—successful? They may appeal to those who pay attention to ecology, although it should be remembered that burning a body is not an ecologically sound activity. Nevertheless, the carbon footprint that a traditional burial leaves behind (for example, with a stone headstone imported from China and a stately varnished oak coffin) is probably greater. It's also cheaper: a small fee for a place in the "forest of remembrance" is paid only once. On top of that, an optional inscription on a common stone costs 200 PLN. Biodegradable urns made of wicker or unspecified shavings are an expense of about 300 PLN (which, however, seems to be a greatly inflated sum).

Funeral fairs

Finally, there is the aesthetic and spatial aspect. A significant part of Polish cemeteries is overloaded with modern tombstones of increasingly bizarre shapes and exaggerated sizes. The rest of the destruction is done by fickle candles and artificial flowers and the fact that it is not uncommon for cemeteries to be stripped of centuries-old trees whose branches could damage precious marble or granite. "Forests" and "fields" of remembrance therefore seem to be a very sensible alternative to the increasingly less picturesque and more fair necropolises. Besides, this is not the only way to change the situation. A few weeks ago we described an Olsztyn cemetery idea with unified tombstones, so as to avoid funerary chaos. Both solutions will probably benefit the space and aesthetics. Only funeral entrepreneurs and importers of the hundreds of tons of stone that land in the country's cemeteries every year will complain.

Jakub Głaz

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