BYTOM Uncut
part three - Downtown, Rozbark

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)

 

Downtown,
Powstańców Warszawskich Street


Downtown, Smolenia Street


Downtown, Smolenia Street


Downtown, Smolenia Street


Downtown, Walowa Street


Downtown, Walowa Street


Downtown, Piekarska Street


Downtown, Piekarska Street


Downtown, Zeromskiego Street

 

author: Piotr Studzinski
first published: 2nd September 2009
last modified (updated): 28th November 2009
photographs taken between 10th May 2009 and 21st January 2010
translation: Radoslaw Obuchowski, Piotr Studzinski

Downtown has a lot of buildings listed as protected monuments [2] and its large part lays within strict restaurateur protection area – in the so-called 'Zone A'. Those precious monument houses are in various condition and that is why it is good to take a time and read Polish law corresponding with the topic - Act of Monuments Protection and Care. According to the article 4 of the act, public administrative agency should 'prevent threats that could make damage to monument value; foil damaging and misusing of the monuments; take countermeasures against thefts, exercise control of maintenance level and use of the monuments.'[13] Article 5 from the very same act says that the owner of historical estate is obliged to 'take care of providing conditions for science research and documental activities connected to the monument; keep restauration and construction works of the monument; secure and maintain the monument and its surroundings in the best condition possible; use a monument in a way that allows it to keep permanently its value; popularise knowledge about a monument and its importance for history and culture.'[13] How many from the listed tasks has been carried out or is being carried out? Let everybody answer the question for themselves.

It is impossible to forget a massacre of the Bytom monuments. I guess the most painful was the one in 1981, a part of outstandingly stupid conception of 'aerating the city'. The action raised Bytomians objection, but at those times authorities did not care. As an aftermath 23 apartment houses on Kosciuszki Square were demolished and their valuable architectural details were lost for good.

Attention! Collapse danger! Keep out!

Continuing my journey through Bytom, I came across completely unprotected, fair-sized, this time not of historic value, ruins of former dairy in the backyard of Smolenia Street which drive you to desperation. Interiors of concrete framework can be visited by anyone, and I really doubt that a very popular in Bytom inscription 'COLLAPSE DANGER' put up on its walls scares away potential guests. The view is uncannily similar to Pripyat, a Ukrainian abandoned city whose residents had been evacuated in a rush after Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. A bomb explosion would probably make less damage. I am wondering how long it is going to take till someone gets hurt or something falls down on some kid’s head. Maybe such an accident has already happened? Does anybody care about it in this city?

Dilapidated houses very often stand next to ones that are still opened - but are also in a critical condition. Possible collapse of the former will damage the construction of the latter, and it is a real problem. Piekarska Street residents who I had a pleasure to speak with told me a little bit about living in such places. I do not know how true their words were, but I do not have any reason not to believe them. They have absolutely no interest in lying to me. Both persons told me about death in the ruins, also child’s. They went on to report about numerous body injuries and about ruthless violence caused by poverty. One of them presented to me his life story and methods of survival when living in penury. A very talkative, cheerful – despite his hard situation – middle-aged man revealed some secrets of street life.

The homeless occupy uninhabited houses and ruins; even those with bricked-up entrances and windows, which pose no barrier for them. As it turns out, where there is a will, there is a way. When thrown out from one ruined building, they will find another over and over again. Humdrum existence. On noticing I was taking pictures, a lady living in Zeromskiego Street invited me to the staircase. During a short conversation she shared with me her and the house residents problems, related with living in devastated house. The major concern of the very congenial lady was ceiling parts flaking off on the ground, endangering residents’ health and life. I guess it is not the only example.

Arriving in Bytom via Chorzowska Street, one should be welcomed by a sign: 'ATTENTION! RUINED AREA. COLLAPSE DANGER', and a small plate below: 'GOD FORBID YOU TAKE PICTURES!' On the left side you cannot miss ruins of Rozbark Coal Mine, closed in 2004, which once employed 6000 miners. A small portion of valuable industrial buildings has survived; let us pray for them not to collapse before somebody will take interest in it and help it to be renewed. I recommend everybody to walk around the mine area, starting from Tuwima Street. Afterthoughts about 20 hectares of waste grounds will not be positive. Anybody can access Rozbark Coal Mine because the fence – where it still exists – is not complete and looking from the back side, there is no fence at all. There is no information that you should keep out, so why some people are still surprised that scrap-iron thieves took out everything they could? The city of Bytom is the owner so it should make everything in its power to secure the place. Lately it has been reported that there is a big garden about to be built on a large part of the mine, which in my opinion could have positive influence on the perception of the city by residents and guests. Unused acreage could be teeming with life again. Knowing the pace of  Bytom investments and amount of unfulfilled promises, I would rather not be ultraoptymistic about this one.

'Bytom invites'

Across from the coal mine, right on the other side of Chorzowska Street, and limited by Siemianowicka Street, is located a rather rarely-visited stretch of Rozbark district which consists of Pszczynska, Kopalniana and Sienna Streets. It is incredible that such a calm place - kind of depopulated - exists right next to the main artery of the city. I can see only a handful of people in the streets and those are not tourists. It is hard to be delighted with the sight of houses that are falling apart. A two-storeyed, grey, devastated building in Sienna Street makes passers-by distraught. Bricked-up windows on the ground floor, battered panes above. For whatever reason, the gate of the backyard has not been bricked up, so after a moment of reflection I decided to go inside. Breaking through the pile of different type of garbage and wastes I made it to the other side, overgrown with scrub. Big holes in bricked-up windows allow one to penetrate the building without any problems, but I was not brave enough to check it myself and I do not recommend it to anybody. I can bet that everything useful has already been stolen. I wonder when this weakened construction is going to fall down. I wonder if somebody loses their life there or ends up disabled. Anyway, what difference does it make? Such an accident would not be the first time, nor the last time.

A little further to the city centre, at the junction of Chorzowska and Katowicka Streets stands the biggest, or one of the biggest, brick apartment houses in Bytom; for sure one of the most architecturally valuable; of course, as you can expect – ruined. Over the years nobody has taken interest in its renovation, and as it seems nobody will. Watching this great building from Katowicka Street, how weird it is to read the remains of an old advertisement on its wall, which goes: “Bytom invites”. Going further along Witczaka Street, you should turn right in Brzezinska, Musialika or Alojzjanow Street to see for yourself that big number of houses there is in a very poor condition. Sometimes, after decades of hibernation, old German inscriptions come to daylight from behind parts of plastres and paint that have fallen down. Special attention should be paid to a three-storeyed, brick-walled, abandoned sizeable edifice of old school in Musialika Street. Fragmentary roof, destroyed windows, collapsed floors, a forsaken asphalt school yard, weeds and scrub at the back – drama.

Potentially, the biggest attraction of this section of Rozbark should be an old traction maintenance depot of narrow gauge railway, where a museum was once held - now closed, unfortunately – and where destruction follows. What a shame. A rather sad impression comes along - once again - on entering Bytom via Siemianowicka Street. Looking at naked walls of four-storeyed buildings, constructed of big concrete panels, I cannot help but think that again it is very similar to Prypiat. Out of four or five blocks of flats, one remains unsecured, the rest received a good metal fence and... that is it. An important notice here: Bytom is short of apartments.

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