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- The Kraków and Małopolska Fairy Tale
WALK 6: Nowa Huta
In 1949, the Communist authorities took the decision to create a huge metallurgical plant with a new citycatering for it on the fertile orchards of the suburban villages ofPleszów and Mogiła. That city – Nowa Huta, literally “New Steelworks” – was to become Poland’s calling card for the world: its urban design and architecture in the style of socialist realism were modelled on Renaissance and Baroque works and principles, and the American concept of the so-called “neighbourhood unit” dating from the 1920s, when architects worked on the plan to expand New York. Each such “unit” was designed as an estate (osiedle) with a populationranging from 4000 to 5000, furnished with all the necessary infrastructure, and forming an independent, self-sustaining little town.
The buildings from the original period are arranged into such osiedlafull of trees and flowers. It is here that the famous superproductive worker Piotr Ożański – amaster bricklayer – broke his records. He was the prototype of Mateusz Birkut, the hero of Andrzeja Wajda’s film Człowiek z marmuru / Man of Marble.
The Nowa Huta trails span the period from prehistory to contemporary times, and bring together areas of protected nature and powerful industry. The Łąki Nowohuckie meadows by the plac Centralny square are a huge green area, a remnant of the former riverbed of the Vistula: a paradise for 370 plant and 69 bird species, many of which have been entered in the Red Book of Endangered Species.
Some of the cultural heritage of the locations predating Nowa Huta has survived. This includes manor houses, rural developments, sacred sites, and necropolises. Standing here are a 17-century Calvinist church in Łuczanowice, the Manor House of the Branicki family from the 17th century with a Renaissance repository(designed by Santi Gucci), and the 19th-century Manor House of the Badenis in Branice. Also worth viewing is the prehistoric Wanda Mound, most probably from the 7th or 8th century AD, which offers an incredible panorama of the steelworks. Situated not far away is the most precious site of Nowa Huta: the 13th-century Cistercian Abbey in Mogiła.
The Church in Mogiła,together with the adjacent Cistercian monastery,is one of the most precious sacred sites in the Małopolska Region. It is home to a crucifix famous for its graces: the sculpture is the only element of all the church furnishings to have been saved from a fire. Since that time, Christ has been dressed in a wig of natural hair and his loins have been girded with real fabric. The founder of the monastery and the little wooden Church of St Bartholomew on the other side of the street was the Bishop of Kraków, Blessed Iwo Odrowąż, who also brought the Cistercians to Mogiła from Silesia in the 13th century.
The most appealing chunk of socialist realist architecture in Nowa Huta is the administrative centre of the steel mills, known as “The Doge’s Palace”. In turn, the Central (officially: Ronald Reagan) Square and its immediate surroundingsrepresent a particular history of the architecture of the last five decades, with perfect examples of constructions in the style of socialist realism. More than 250 air raid shelters were also built under the settlements of Nowa Huta in the 1950s. The most impressive can be found under the administrative buildings of the steelworks and Żeromski Hospital, and one of the two under the former Światowid Cinema (today: the Museum of the People’s Republic of Poland) is open to visitors.
In 1973 a huge monument of Lenin was erected in Aleja Róż, but it was taken down in 1989. The Church of the Holiest Heart of Jesus standing nearby commemorates the dramatic events from 1960: the clashes of the people of Nowa Huta with the forces of the police in defence of the cross. The churches of Nowa Huta, in particular the boat-shaped Ark of the Lord in Bieńczyce and the church in Mistrzejowice, played an important role in the development and operation of the Solidarity trade union and in the demonstrations against the regime in the 1980s. Here those repressed by the system received help.
The Museum of Polish Aviationsituated on the premises of the former airfield in Czyży is also worth a visit. The building attracts attention with its original form, and houses a unique collection of vintage aircraft and aeroplane engines.