Nowa Huta: Krakowâ€™s Brutal Brother?
25th February 2011
Krakow and Nowa Huta are unlikely siblings. Krakow is cultured, refined and conservative; Nowa Huta is industrial, brutalist and revolutionary. Although they have been part of the same administrative entity since 1951, they still feel like forcibly conjoined twins rather than parts of the same city. Of the two, Nowa Huta undoubtedly has the reputation as the black sheep, but a new exhibition aims to challenge the myths about Krakowâ€™s brutal brother.
According to the Nowa Huta 1949+ exhibit at the Historical Museum of Krakow, the number one Nowa Huta myth is that the industrial new town was built next to Krakow as a punishment, or as an attempt to overwhelm Krakowâ€™s intellectual, conservative resistance to the Communist authorities with a flood of crude proletarianism.
Folklore says that Krakow was singled out for retribution because of its unique resistance in the notorious 1946 Peopleâ€™s Referendum. The plebiscite asked Poles to say â€˜yesâ€™ or â€˜noâ€™ to three proposals: that the senate should be abolished, that the economy should be restructured along Communist lines and that Polandâ€™s western borders should be â€œconsolidatedâ€ along the Oder-Neisse line. Powerful Communist elements in the government rigged the results to show an overwhelming vote of â€œthree times yes.â€ Only in Krakow were opposition parties able to publish truthful returns, which showed only 20 percent of voters saying â€˜yesâ€™ three times. The myth says that this embarrassment was punished by the construction of giant polluting chimneys looming over the cityâ€™s ancient churches.
â€œNot true,â€ says Maria Lempart, co-curator of the exhibition. â€œThe first decision to build the steel mill here was taken in February 1949. In fact, in December 1948 engineers were planning to build the mill near Gliwice [90 kilometres west of Krakow]â€ she explains. The decision to construct the giant Vladimir Lenin Steel Works, and its accompanying ideal socialist town, near Krakow seems to have been based on the presence of good rail links for bringing raw materials from east and west, the proximity of the river to supply water, and a site that was elevated enough to avoid flooding. The fact that Krakow was a centre of learning, with established schools of engineering and scientific research departments, added to the locationâ€™s attractiveness as a site for a major industrial investment.
The second great Nowa Huta myth is that it is a godless place. It is certainly true that Nowa Huta residents fought long and hard to secure the construction of a new place of worship throughout the 1960s, but it is not true that the settlement was deliberately built without one. The original plans for Nowa Huta included a site for a grand church and the Union of Polish Architects held a competition to find a winning design in the 1950s. It is also worth noting that there were pre-existing churches within the district that residents used regularlyâ€”though they were too small for the rapidly-growing population. Today, there are 10 new churches in the area, including the huge Arka Pana (Ark of the Lord), which was the first new place of worship built in Nowa Huta. Future pope Karol Wojty?a laid the foundation stone in 1969.
Nowa Huta myth number three says that the industrial suburb smothered the Old Town with pollution. In fact, the steel mill was situated to the east of Krakow because the prevailing winds are westerly â€” they blow from west to east taking industrial air pollution away from the historical centre. It is true that the Old Town has suffered from poor air quality, but the primitive domestic heating and vehicle exhausts of residentsâ€™ cars have historically been the principal cause.
Read all here: http://www.krakowpost.com/article/2509