The Daily Quotidian

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Warszawa: A Defence

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This weekend I went to Warsaw to visit a graduate school friend. Going in, my expectations were low: all I had heard about Poland was that Krakow was old and beautiful and Warsaw was gray and ugly.


Warsaw was a totally wonderful surprise. The entire city was leveled (well, dynamited actually) during World War II by the Nazis as punishment for the Warsaw Uprising. So the entire “Old City” and “New City” have been rebuilt to pre-war specifications since then.

I suppose that I assumed that since after World War II Poland became the Sovietized “People’s Republic of Poland” that the city would look like some brutal concrete monstrosity.

Wrong again!

To be sure, there are a good number of Soviet-era buildings in the city. But even these have their charms. The Palace of Culture and Science is one of several Stalin-era “palaces” (there are other similar buildings in Moscow). It’s the tallest building in Poland and the first building you are likely to notice when you get out of
Warsaw’s central train station. To Poles, the building probably symbolizes Russian domination. To everyone else, the building’s symbolism isn’t all that much different as the building virtually screams out “hey, look who is in charge here!” Of course, the Russians aren’t in charge now, and the building now houses a multiplex cinema, some radio and TV channels, as well as exhibition spaces. Anyway, my point is that this building–at least from a non-Polish perspective–is visually appealing, imposing, and socially and historically complex.

Despite the efforts of a post 1989 Poland to reorient (or, perhaps, de-Orient) the city toward the west, other traces of Sovietiana can be seen throughout Warsaw. There are friezes in the Soviet Realist style on the sides of some hulking buildings. Really it’s quite ironic to see these sculptures on the sides of buildings that now house western banks.

That baby comrade is ripped!

As you can see, I’m not really sure how to align these two photos properly and parallel to each other.

Anyway, right now I’m overstating the influence of Russia on today’s Poland. The city looks western European in most places, and basically American in other places, which is probably some metaphor for a geopolitical reality.


Written by dailyquotidian

July 21, 2008 at 10:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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One Response

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  1. Too bad about the graffitti on the monument but interesting nonetheless

    Elizabeth Estrada

    July 23, 2008 at 12:24 am

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