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"A literary guide to Nowa Huta" by Anna Grochowska

12 of March '20

Special attention should be paid to the peculiarities of this district, annexed to Krakow in 1951. Originally, Nowa Huta functioned as a separate city, but this lasted quite a short time, only two years. However, it is hard to resist the impression that this initial separateness was deeply ingrained in Nowa Huta residents.

In Nowa Huta, when we go to "downtown," it is Central Square, not the Main Square. However, when we say we are heading to Krakow, it is certain that we will soon find ourselves in the vicinity of the Old Town. This is according to the author of "Literary Guide..." - a native of Nowa Huta and a literary scholar. In her book, she invites the reader on a literary walk. However, she does not limit herself only to learning about the profiles of famous writers. Her paths lead primarily to historical places, housing estates, streets, squares, cultural institutions, cafes and restaurants, churches, hospitals and even cemeteries.

literary tourism

It might seem that only authors writing at the time of its establishment and later will write about Nowa Huta. This is true, of course, because along with Tadeusz Konwicki, Slawomir Mrozek and Wislawa Szymborska, there were also Jerzy Pilch and Ryszard Kapuscinski. However, before this place on the map received its present name, it also appeared in the works of Wincenty Kadlubek, Jan Kochanowski, or Cyprian Kamil Norwid.
The first mentions are dated, the author writes, to the Middle Ages. They refer to the village of Mogiła, where the construction of Nowa Huta began in 1949. The name of the village is directly related to the Mound of Wanda, daughter of King Krak, ruler of Krakow, located on its territory. Her story has inspired writers for centuries, and thus the figure of the princess has left a huge mark on the area.

left: Slawomir Mrozek, photo: Zofia Nasierowska/Reporter, owned by East News;
right:Wislawa Szymborska, photo: Danuta B. Lomaczewska, owned by East News

a new city for a new type of person

Nowa Huta was supposed to be a modern city, a counterweight to the "old" Krakow, with its cultural traditions and exuberant art-university life. Such a vision tempted many - people were drawn to Nowa Huta from all over. Many of the newcomers were employed to build the new city. Keeping the spotlight sharp on the sublimity of the concept was helped by the literature produced at the time, which was in line with the authorities' thinking. Thus overlooked were the not-so-elevated facts of the works carried out and the conditions under which the builders lived.
It was then that the first block of flats located in the Wanda 14 housing estate was erected. This is how Dorota Terakowska wrote about Nowa Huta in her reportage "Invitation to Dance ":

And here is this Nowa Huta - the terror of bourgeois, incumbent Krakow, this Nowa Huta, about which terrible and impossible things were said, on whose newly built streets one was afraid to walk, which had a place called Mexico [this refers to the workers' barracks in Pleszów, later to become Bar Meksyk - A.G..] from the customs of its transient inhabitants, this Nowa Huta already proud, though menacing, about which grandmothers told their grandchildren macabre bedtime storiesbedtime stories, and in these fairy tales there was a little truth and a little myth, Nowa Huta, where there were more illegitimate children than anywhere (16 percent of newborns, as statistics later showed), Nowa Huta, where in the harshest conditions a man hardened like steel and gained the proud name of man - but then, in those years, this process was just beginning, and solidified somewhere only in the 1960s [...].

Terakowska D. , General Rehearsal, Krakow 1982.

from Central Square

Central Square is the very heart of the district, around which the life of the people of Nowa Huta revolved and still revolves. One of the places that made a strong mark on the map of Nowa Huta in the 1950s and later was the Bambo patisserie, located in the building of today's Block 8 on the Centrum D housing estate. It received such a review in the Voice of Nowa Huta:

Colorful and originally painted walls, neat and aesthetically pleasing furniture, nice tables in the large windows, a radio and an adapter with lots of records - all this attracts residents who used to have to look for such an establishment in old Kraków. In "Bambo" there is good black coffee, a very large selection of pastries [...], many kinds of excellent wines. And, what is important, there is no nasty beer here, which we are so disgusted with in the old cafes.

Podolecki F. , Praise of coffee,"Głos Nowej Huty" 1980, no. 22.

Neon sign of the Bambo pastry shop and view of the "Helicopter" block of flats on the Centrum D 8 estate, 2nd half of the 1960s.

photo: Henryk Hermanowicz, owned by MHK

In addition to the pastry shop, a shopping pavilion called "Child's World" was an important landmark, located on os. Zgody 7. It was a frequently visited shopping destination for Nowa Huta residents.

glass houses

On the Glass Houses estate you will find the so-called "Swedish Block", designed by Marta and Janusz Ingarden - the fruit of the first post-war expeditions. The building is designed in accordance with Le Corbusier's five principles of architecture. It is 260 meters long, made of cellular concrete and houses 272 apartments. The colorful plaster of the facade can still be seen today.

A view of the Swedish block and the Glass House 1 housing development, 2019.

Photo credit: Krzysztof Piła

Nowa Huta is full of secrets and unusual history. To learn more, just reach for Anna Grochowska's book "Literary Guide to Nowa Huta" and take a walk along the paths already worn out by Nowa Huta residents and their Krakow friends.

The project is organized by the Studio of Heritage and Identity of Nowa Huta of the C. K. Norwid Cultural Center. K. Norwid Culture Center.


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