Mittwoch, 22. Januar 2014

"A day before an evening in Upper Silesia" by Tobias Krone

German journalism student Tobi had already arrived in the morning and had an exciting day - photo journalist Marcin showed him his city Katowice.

My first step into Silesia is right into deep water, the hole in the asphalt looked like ice, the air feels twice more like Siberia than in Munich last night when I entered the bus - but it’s obviously not cold enough. My shoes dive into dirty icey water, a grey morning is giving me a soaking wet wake-up call - above my head the steely post-communist towers of a city under construction, around me the buzz of busy people on the go, the roaring of caterpillars. This is today - and Katowice says hello to all the sleepers! (First observations in the waiting room: Not everybody here seems to be ready to jump on the call, yet unwillingly awake. A sad old man sitting on the bench without any luggage but a ham sandwich taking all of his time to liberate his breakfast from the paper it was wrapped in, then chewing and looking into this strange hurrying world. The rest of the people waiting look exactly like me. I feel comfortable here. Maybe they won’t even think I'm a tourist. A tourist in Katowice? - Marcin’s answer to my mail: Katowice is not a touristical city. - Yes, but a city. A citys of a documentary photographer (Marcin) who knows the places to see! And the best thing is: I won’t even be a tourist.)

Marcin will catch me up five minutes later, and show me around in the city he knows since childhood. A city whose name is not of interest, he tells me. Here, people just think and talk about Upper Silesia, a whole chain of mining cities in the straight transformation towards what is called Silicon Silesia. Silicon Silesia feels warm, cosy and very organic: For breakfast, Marcin takes me to a colorfully equipped vegetarian restaurant in a former-prostitute’s-nowadays-clubbing area. - I get to wonder about all the vegetable tarts, knowing by experience one thing about Polish people: their unbreaking passion for bigos and kielbasy. A new Poland without meat? Seriously? - Of course, my polish guide won’t touch any of the meatless food here, which brings back my well-balanced stereotype. „I’ll show you later where to eat good food“, he’ll smile. (It will be good. And it will be meat.) To be honest, I’m still a bit hungry after my potato moussaka in the morning: Just Silicon won’t fill your stomach.

Arkadiusz Gola's photo album in the museum store: sweating men working in the fields, miners with dirty faces, a lonely man kissing a dog on the lips: The poor Silesia, Marcin explains. - And the rich one? Where is it? - He smiles: There is no rich Silesia.

Silicon Silesia has two structural problems: 1) too little parking lots, 2) too many motorways. We almost run by our goal hidden between a LIDL cube, a Carrefour cube and a Mc Donald's golden arches tower: Nikisowiecz, a lovely historical „familot" brick house settlement, doves on the balcony. Light, elegant blocks for a German coal mine landlord’s Silesian coal miners, built in the late 19th century by a Berlin architect, giving a glimps of dignity to the poorest. - My first shy hypothesis: The rich Silesia, hasn’t it always been belonging to someone else?

The photos on the wall, they give hope to reject my hypothesis: The photos of the Pope. The photos on the wall of every church we visit. Didn’t he belong to the people? - To the Polish? - And even to Silesians?

Why do the Polish here talk about Silesia? Why do I even see the banner with the word Oberschlesien (written in good old Germanic fracture) in a Polish car’s trunk? Do they really want it back? Hasn’t it had to become out of fashion? Somehow? Some decades ago? Why can they be proud to know German words? Is it so easy to remake Oberschlesien a simple symbol of regional identity? And even this: How could it have been so easy to become friends - since we met this morning?

Not to forget, we are here for the interviews: Our jobs out there in Oswiecim… the events lost in the grey dusts of the past. ‚Auschwitz‘ - who’ll say that? Today? Marcin’s father doesn’t even know the road to Oswiecim (15 minutes away from Katowice). The gateway to the Lager’s hometown is a blinking supermarket. Life goes on, in Auschwitz and everywhere. Marcin’s father drives "slowly but carefully", streets are icey tonight. He’ll help us with the luggage, a thin layer of snow on the hotel’s deserted parking lot. In the lobby, on the corridors, a curtain of silence.

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