part four - Rozbark, Lagiewniki, Bobrek

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

Rozbark, former coal mine

Rozbark, Brzezinska Street

Lagiewniki - Kolonia Zgorzelec

Lagiewniki - Kolonia Zgorzelec

Bobrek- former steelworks

Bobrek, steelworks housing project

Bobrek, Konstytucji Street

Bobrek, Stalmacha Street

Bobrek, Stalowa 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

'It is another place in the city that should be preserved for the next generations.'[14]

Apart from the city centre, there is no way to miss other areas which are far from representative. Downfall of Zygmunt Steelworks in Lagiewniki district and closing of Bobrek Steelworks in Bobrek influenced degradation of the districts without a doubt, not even mentioning social and economic aftermaths. Part of the area of former Zygmunt Steelworks, founded in 1857 and closed in 2000, is just rubble, part is in ruin and scares away at hundreds of meters. Other Zygmunt’s objects were bought by a few companies which operate within the area today. Not that long ago there was a housing project made of brick right aside the steelworks. Today, there are only rubble and one bulilding left. Residents of a few familok houses (brick houses without any special adornments designed for heavy industry workers), located in an out-of-the-way area at Szyby Rycerskie Street, have a “nice view” from their windows – ruins of an industrial pressure tower (called also water tower) together with remains of the buildings belonging to the steelworks and a “pretty” truly Bytom-style inscription near the tower entrance: “KEEP OUT! DEATH DANGER!” As it often is in Bytom, apart from the sign, the area is unprotected.

Not further than 1000 meters North, near Rubber Factory, lays former Lagiewniki Coal Mine (in 1971 connected to Rozbark Coal Mine) terrain. It is a large, highly devastated area which needs gigantic amounts of funds to be rehabilitated. Until this day there are two sediment reservoirs filled with some fluid (do not mix up with water). Being there, you have to pay special attention to your steps in order not to fall into one of the opened sewer wells. Going a bit further off the asphalt road into bushes, you can see concrete rubble, slowly absorbed by woods. Nearby, two-storey concrete skeleton dominates overgrown wastes. You can enter the property without any problems - what a surprise, it is not secured! An intervention of iron-scrap thieves on one of the pillars is visible. Most probably, for his own luck he gave up. A stone-throw from the ruin, among apple trees, a couple of buildings were robbed out of everything useful. The adjacent area is a one big waist dump. From time to time, trucks come along, and some people bustle, having other than tourist or recreational intentions. Heading towards Krystyna Shaft visible on the horizon, in Bytomka Valley, remains of brick mine building, protected by high sides of the valley can be found. It seems that long years will pass till new destination for the area will come.

The saddest thing, in my opinion, is the fate of the nearby Kolonia Zgorzelec. Working-class housing project constructed in years 1897 – 1901, which in 1994 has been put on protected monuments list, is – according to President of Bytom, Piotr Koj - 'another place in the city that should be preserved for the next generations. Among 30 buildings only 1/3 is renovated. About 1/3 without residents, left without care is falling to the hands of thieves and time does the rest.'[6] It is very nice that Mr. Koj has such a kind opinion. The lone colony, near the border with Ruda Slaska, is located in a very attractive and scenic part of Bytom. This peaceful and quiet place near Bytomka River - to be honest rather polluted one, which is not surprising at all since some people or companies make a dumping site out of it! [7] – could be fantastic place to take a rest after a whole day of work. Pavements repaired by the city and pampered lawns make a really good impression but it should be something normal. Despite the fact that the familok housing estate is not that large, its renovation still poses a problem. How it could look, you can see watching a couple of houses after make-over. What is interesting: the sponsorship for the project came from... German donation of one million German marks from Wohnungsgesellschaft Recklinghausen and IBA Emscher Park GmbH. Quoting a Zgorzelec inhabitant: 'The city does not care, and they will not be investing any money here'. Kolonia Zgorzelec is not a  top priority for Bytom administration. As a matter of fact, I am not astonished since downtown, visited by so many people, looks as it looks.

'Raised in chimney’s odour, which smells nice to me since I was a kid and the landscape is not the one that in fairytales be.' [23]

I have mentioned Bobrek Steelworks before; one of the oldest (founded in 1856) Polish (formerly German) steelworks which supported the whole district back in the day, employing around 5000 people in 1970s – that is when it was in its peak of prosperity.[16] After declaration of bankruptcy had been submitted in 1994 its immovable property was being systematically robbed by the neighbourhood residents. Today, its vast terrain – as far as I can say, looking from a perspective available for everybody to judge – does not raise any hope. Part of industrial buildings has already been pulled down, another part struggles against gravitation, as it seems, without any chance for victory. Today, an old carbide factory is one big, unsecured pile of bricks and concrete where you can easily fall into a cellar room. Thank God a machinery plant, constructed between 1900 and 1907 in a neo-Renaissance style, has been put under protection in 1984 because it opens up a possibility for its future survival of the ongoing disaster sweeping through Bobrek. A brick edifice with large arched windows – which have received numerous stone throws – needs, most probably expensive, renovation. It is my dream that one day there will be a museum of steelworks together with exposition about the district history, but will it ever come true? I would like to believe in it.

Bobrek area lays within strict and part restaurateur protection area, as well as landscape protection zone. There are over 110 protected objects! Between 1907–1912, adjacently to the steelworks, an estate of familoks was built in historism, modernism and functionalism style. “New working-class colony”, as it was named, has also been put on the protected monuments list. In the widely-held opinion of major part of Bytom residents, Bobrek is the worst district of the city – worst probably being synonymous to poorest. Walking around Bobrek with a camera in the hand is not the wisest idea, and some lady from Wytrwalych (The Persistents’) Street deigned to shout that information to me, using not the most friendly words. Who knows, maybe if I were in her shoes, I would do the same? During the best moments of Bobrek Steelworks, entering the district from Karb via Konstytucji Street, you could not stand the odour of smoke coming out of steelworks chimneys whose fumes repeatedly exceeded every ecological restriction.

Today it is no longer a problem, but other negative effects came to daylight. The aforementioned historical housing project is deteriorating, as well as the rest of this part of the city. There are few completely destroyed buildings and in numerous other there is window carpentry missing as well as parts of elevation. It has been documented that Bobrek residents stole roofs of the houses, which is beyond my comprehension. Some lunatics went to any lengths of stealing roofs of the very tenement they lived in...[17] Nearby Zwirowa Street, about 100 metres away, outside the housing project, on the side local kids are playing in postindustrial ruins. They are not afraid of stepping inside or climbing on the walls. I just wonder, what kind of sense does it have to pull down historical buildings of closed mines and to leave such kind of dangerous unuseful objects off no architectural value? Somehow, the city should put out the money for deconstruction and there is place for discussion here.

'The fact that you are not somebody does not mean that you are nobody!' [24]

Areas of Stalowa and Pasteura Streets, bordering with the steelworks zone, cry out to heaven for vengeance. From the familoks windows – and such kind of 'luxry' is not present in every house – range very dispiriting view on aftermaths of heavy industry reorganisation. The residents look directly at remains of steelworks gigant. Apart from barely standing brick houses, 'highly qualified specialists' dismantled part the concrete fence of the steelworks, the other part is ruined, and the rest of the debris is lying around with other garbage in the street. On the other side of the fence there is landscape resembling natural disaster consequences: pile of concrete rubble with industrial ruins at the background. I recommend you to go to Noskowskiego Street, walk to the end of it, behind devastated, grey former steelworks building (you can enter the object without any problems, which is realised by locals), then turn your face on Stalowa Street and for a minute look at the space in front of you. 'Punishment without a guilt, fate is making jokes of them, but they are still making it.' [23] – using words of popular rapper from Bytom. If I, every day, getting up from my bed and coming back to my home after whole day of work, had to look at the scenery, I would surely go into depression state or other mental ilness. Are those proper conditions of living in XXI century? If you think so, please, go there and tell it to the people, they will reveal their “understanding” to you, for sure.

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