Postcard from... Nowa Huta

 

The 20th century still looms large in Poland, and particularly in Nowa Huta. The eastern suburb of Krakow was built almost from scratch at Stalin’s behest by Poland’s communist government shortly after the Second world War, and is still home to more than 100,000 residents. The area – whose name means “New Steelworks” in Polish – was built as a sort of communised utopia for the city’s workers.

Its long main roads were named after Soviet leaders and causes. And the square boasted a 7-metre tall statue of Lenin. But the suburb has outlasted the statue, which was moved around the time of Poland’s democratisation in 1989, and streets have been named after key figures in the country’s transition from communism: Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II – a former Cardinal of Krakow. The former Lenin Steelworks is now owned and run by ArcelorMittal.

But one can hardly accuse planners of lacking a sense of humour. A large statue memorialises Solidarity, the trade union credited with communism’s Polish demise, and whose members spilt blood on Nowa Huta’s streets during strikes. Given its place about 100 metres in front of where Lenin used to stand, it’s hard not to smile at its shape: a 15ft V-sign.

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