Do you remember Kazimierz Kutz’s film'The Beads of One Rosary', which is the closing of his film trilogy ('Salt of the Black Earth' and 'Pearl in the Crown')? Authentic moments of destruction of the old Giszowiec and the tragedy of the people who have lived there for generations are immortalized in it. But perhaps we would better start by raja (Silesian way to say start from the beginning).
It is the beginning of the twentieth century. The emerging coal mine 'Giesche' needs hands to work. And is there a better way to recruit and retain employees than giving them the opportunity to settle down in adequate living conditions? The company 'Giesche' commissioned two architects, George and Emil Zillmann, to construct the mining settlement with the necessary social , service and commercial facilities for 600 families. They had designed something that was called the city garden. The rows of houses were stretching along the streets, built on the model of the Silesian rural buildings. The single or two-family houses were situated in the beautiful small gardens. The mining settlement looked charming at any time of the year.
Men were working in the gruba (Silesian word for mine in English) and women were occupied with doing household chores and bringing their children up. They were going shopping to the specially built pavilion, which was 100 metres long. According to the prearranged schedule, they were carring the clothes, sheets and other things that needed to be washed to the housing estate laundry (it was not permitted to do the laundry in the house due to the humidity). Later, they were coming back home with the laundry dry and ironed (In former times it was very popular to use mangles, which are machines consisting of two heavy and heated rollers to press and dry your wet clothes or other textiles). In those times they had electric dryers and a mangle like that! They also were visiting a public bath with their children (Men were washing themselves in the bath located inside the mine).
Life was going on peacefully on the beaten track. Children were going to one of the schools (Polish, German and American ... (sic!). Men were meeting after work for a beer at the inn, which still exists until now and is called Dworek pod Lipami (literally: the manor under the lime trees). Years were passing. The history was passing through Giszowiec . First of all, after three uprisings and a plebiscite Poland started to exist in there! German shareholders called 'Gisches' came back to Germany. The engineers and technicians from the United States came up in their place, because it was a company from the Antipodes that had bought post-German property.
Americans wanted to live and feel at home so that they built a small colony of houses on the southern edge of the housing estate as if taken straight from America. After work, they were resting on an 18-hole golf course (unfortunately non-existent anymore). Until now, you can admire the small houses and a 36-meter high water tower located nearby. The tower is 108 years old and most of time was providing water supply for the whole entire housing estate.
Times were changing, the system was changing, the ruling was changing, but it seemed as if nothing could disturb the peace of this charming corner. Unfortunately, it was the year 1964 when the mine “Staszic' began the coal mining. There was a shortage of labour similar to the situation in the mine Gische, which took place several dozen years ago. The decision was to demolish the old Giszowiec and build in its place tall concrete 10-storey high-rise buildings. Before the maintenance man was able to prevent this situation arising (if he could say anything at all and stand up to the party and government…) the bulldozers flattened ... two-third of Giszowiec. It was a crime not only on the architecture, but also on the former inhabitants who were forced to move out and settle in to the new “drawers' in the large buildings as they called their new flats.
And here we go back to the beginning of our story. While you are still young, it is easier to adapt to the new conditions. However, the elderly could not imagine life without their gardens, the cages in which they kept rabbits, poultry, or pigeons which are very popular in this region. They were suffering a great personal tragedy. Those people were brutally separated from the roots and had to move into an alien world which they did not understand. But one-third of the city garden survived. Sometimes, when you are strolling around this historic part, you are able not to put attention to the ugly concrete blocks. With every step, not only we can immerse ourselves in the old streets. Not only we can admire the charming preserved fragments, but also we can immerse ourselves in the history and atmosphere of the former times. Imagination suggests the pictures of the former years. The insane pace of twenty-first century goes somewhere beyond us, but it absolutely does not concern us. We are a few hours back to the past times. We meet for instance the painters called “Janów group' whose official name is ' Circle of Amateur Painters'.
We can admire the house, called 'Gawlikówka' named after its artistically talented tenant.
There is plenty of simplicity, perhaps naïve beauty in their paintings. How to describe the paintings of Teofil Ociepka, Ewald Gawlik or Erwin Sówka? The old world, traditions and the beauty of this land are preserved and presented in them.
Oh, and there were also some other interestingly situations. During the artistic meetings, slightly tipsy painters (just for the fluency of the discussion!) who were not unable to accept criticism, were smashing the paitings against the floor or edge of table. History is silent as to whether the painting could ever be destroyed on the head of their opponent. There is so much more to write, but no words would present the climate and the beauty of this corner of Katowice. Dear Guest of our Silesian metropolis, if you do not want to return home and not really knowing Katowice, then you need to visit this place. Come here and in another place which is nearby as well. But as they say in Silesia: ino po leku (just take it easy, there is no need to rush).
Maciej Mastalski, the tourism enthusiast and lecturer at University of the Third Age in Tychy.
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Hostel Mariacka 13,
street Mariacka 13/4a, 40-001 Katowice, Silesia, Poland
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