Nowa Huta

Nowa Huta: Generations of Change in a Model Socialist Town

Kinga Pozniak
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 224
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    Nowa Huta
    Book Description:

    In 1949 construction of the planned town of Nowa Huta began on the outskirts of Kraków, Poland. Its centerpiece, the Lenin Steelworks, promised a secure future for workers and their families. By the 1980s, however, the rise of the Solidarity movement and the ensuing shock therapy program of the early 1990s rapidly transitioned the country from socialism to a market-based economy, and Nowa Huta fell on hard times.Kinga Pozniak shows how the remarkable political, economic, and social upheavals since the end of the Second World War have profoundly shaped the historical memory of these events in the minds of the people who lived through them. Through extensive interviews, she finds three distinct, generationally based framings of the past. Those who built the town recall the might of local industry and plentiful jobs. The following generation experienced the uprisings of the 1980s and remembers the repression and dysfunction of the socialist system and their resistance to it. Today's generation has no direct experience with either socialism or Solidarity, yet as residents of Nowa Huta they suffer the stigma of lower-class stereotyping and marginalization from other Poles.Pozniak examines the factors that lead to the rewriting of history and the formation of memory, and the use of history to sustain current political and economic agendas. She finds that despite attempts to create a single, hegemonic vision of the past and a path for the future, these discourses are always contested-a dynamic that, for the residents of Nowa Huta, allows them to adapt as their personal experience tells them.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8024-7
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-20)

    For much of the second half of the twentieth century, the global geopolitical landscape was shaped by two political-economic systems, socialism and capitalism. The two were seen as mutually exclusive and fundamentally incompatible with one another and thus divided the world into two opposing camps. In 1989, this arrangement came to an end as socialist governments across East-Central Europe collapsed one by one.¹ Eastern European socialism is now largely relegated to history.² And yet the legacy of socialist institutions, values, and social formations continues to inform present-day politics, economic programs, and people’s lives. How the socialist past is remembered has...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Memory and Change in Nowa Huta’s Cityscape
    (pp. 21-63)

    If you and I arrive in Kraków and ask for directions to Nowa Huta, we will be told to take the streetcar to Central Square (Plac Centralny) and get off there. The square is actually more of a transportation circle where five streets converge. If we stand in the very center, in the small green area surrounded by streetcar tracks, we can see many defining features of Nowa Huta that speak to different aspects of the district’s history. The square is surrounded by buildings in the socialist realist style, although the tourist could be forgiven for confusing it with Renaissance...

  7. CHAPTER 2 From Lenin to Mittal: Work, Memory, and Change in Nowa Huta’s Steelworks
    (pp. 64-99)

    The castlelike administrative center of the steelworks looms majestically on a gentle hill on the eastern boundary of Nowa Huta. The administrative center is made up of two main buildings, and its characteristic arcade-studded design has earned it the nickname “Vatican” or the “Doge’s Palace.” In between the two buildings is the entrance to the steelworks, an industrial complex made up of dozens of buildings and warehouses spread over a surface area of approximately ten square kilometers and crisscrossed by numerous rail lines. The front gate is the end stop of many streetcar and bus lines. From here, workers who...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Between a Model Socialist Town and a Bastion of Resistance: Representations of the Past in Museums and Commemorations
    (pp. 100-123)

    A socialist-era “work leader” hurriedly lays down bricks to beat yet another record. In a peasant hut on the edge of town, the owner serves up a steaming plate of pierogi to his guests. In a pub down the street, the frustrated owner runs out of drinks to serve to his clients. In a nearby park, an American spy wearing dark sunglasses stations herself on a bench to watch life unfold in the country’s model socialist town. And the American spy is me.

    No, this is not the plot of a spy movie. It is May 2010, and Nowa Huta’s...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Socialism’s Builders and Destroyers: Memories of Socialism among Nowa Huta Residents
    (pp. 124-155)

    A 1987 Polish movie titledPapieros od prezydenta(A cigarette from the president) depicts a clash of values between two generations of Nowa Huta residents. The father, who in his youth worked on the construction of Nowa Huta’s steelworks in the early 1950s, recalls a visit to the construction site by then–Polish president Bolesław Bierut. Touring the construction site, the president talked with workers and gave them cigarettes. The father kept his cigarette for years as a memento of that day. In the movie, he recalls the hard work he and his contemporaries put into building Nowa Huta: they...

  10. CHAPTER 5 My Grandpa Built This Town: Memory and Identity among Nowa Huta’s Younger Generation
    (pp. 156-179)

    It is the morning of April 27. A group of workers arrives with shovels to dig out the wooden cross that was put up by the local population to mark the site of the future church. A few passersby, all women, stop and take notice. They flock to the cross, hitting the workers with their purses and shopping bags, and force them away. They kneel down at the cross and begin to pray and sing. After some time, a special riot squad (ZOMO) arrives and begins to disperse the praying women with the aid of rubber batons. A few unmarked...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 180-194)

    This book uses the framework of memory in a former Polish flagship socialist steel town to explore the relationship between historical change and people’s experiences. It examines how the socialist period is remembered and represented in various contexts and what these memories and representations can tell us about people’s experiences of the political, economic, and social changes that have taken place since the collapse of the socialist government in 1989. It also asks how people’s memory, identity, and sense of place are shaped and articulated with relation to events that have taken place in a concrete locality. In the process,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 195-204)
  13. References
    (pp. 205-218)
  14. Index
    (pp. 219-227)