The city most likely you can`t even pronounce situated in central Poland was once textile industry empire, flourishing especially during the fin de siècle. Nicknamed “the Manchester of Poland”, it was considered a smoking industrial behemoth during the 19th Century, before collapsing into catastrophic decline after the Great Depression. May the Polish city of Łódź not be seen as a fairy tale destination and wouldn’t trouble your bucket list nevertheless you must know this is only an appearance. The third-largest town in Poland has tremendous history and today is a city of modern technologies, creative enterprises and grand events. It is a metropolis where a landscape of industrial architecture mixes with silhouettes of office buildings, production halls, culture and sports buildings. And gorgeous palaces. There are three times as many palaces in Łódź as in five times bigger city of London. Piotrkowska Street, one of the longest commercial thoroughfares in Europe, with a length of 4.9 km is home to 9 palaces which is a number of all palaces in the capital of the U.K.
The boat people
So called Polish Manchester`s Polish name is translated to “boat” (łódź) in English. We don`t know exactly the origin of this name however this is referred to in the emblem and when you hear the dwellers of Łódź (łodzianin – man, łodzianka – woman, łodzianie – plural) calling themselves “the boat people”.
One of the Europe`s biggest and fastest growing textile industry centre
A settlement on the area of present-day Łódź had been first established in the 14th century and in 1423 it was granted a town charter, along with the right to have a marketplace. However, the real development of Łódź started with the industrial era at the beginning of the 19th century when the city was chosen to be the heart of the rapidly-growing textile industry. The population of Łódź soared from some 4000 people in the 1830s and 40000 in 1865 to over 300000 inhabitants at the turn of the century, which was an unprecedented growth on a worldwide scale.
The rapid development of the city in the second half of the 19th century was brought about by the rise of enormous industrialist fortunes. New inhabitants, craftsmen and merchants came to Łódź, markets and town fairs came to life. The profits obtained from prosperous textile mills opened up practically unlimited possibilities for their owners. The city residences became expressions of the riches and power of the local tycoons. They were usually situated next to the owner’s factory. Łódź became one of the Europe`s biggest and fastest growing textile industry centre.
City of Four Cultures
Ever since the industrial revolution bringing a massive influx of workforce, Łódź has been the Promised Land for many nations: Poles, Germans, Jews and Russians. People of different nationalities and religions shared there the same dream of a success. Among them there were many great industrialists, merchants, bankers, architects and writers who created a modern city and its culture. Despite the differences they were able to build the city together.
In the 1830’s German weavers and cloth makers came to Łódź in great numbers. The German industrial culture played a significant role in the development of the city. It has left priceless reminders of technical and urban history: factories and the haughty residences of the manufacturers, power and communication machinery, historic tenements, three Evangelical churches, theatres, schools and the cemetery next to Ogrodowa Street. The powerful textile empires created by industrialists of German origin: Scheibler, Geyer, Grohman and Heinzel, have survived to these days and are used as the foundations of various institutions. The over one hundred-year-old presence of Russians in Łódź is related to the time when …
… Poland did not exist as a nation and the city, paradoxically, had its moment of dynamic development.
The remnants of that Russian culture are the Eastern Orthodox Churches, chapels, the headquarters of governing bodies and examples of sepulcher art in Łódź cemeteries. The most significant trace of those times is the St. Alexander Nevsky’s Eastern Orthodox Cathedral (Kilińskiego Street). Built in the neo-Byzantine style on an octagon plan, the church houses a magnificent iconostas. The Festival of the Four Cultures, held annually in September, reflects this multicultural heritage of Łódź.
The Jewish community at the turn of the 20th century was estimated at two hundred thousand and in that number there were the great industrialists – Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznański, musicians – Artur Rubinstein and Aleksander Tansman, the distinguished architect – Dawid Lande and a master of poetry – Julian Tuwim. The day before the outbreak of WWII, Łódź was inhabited by approximately 672,000 people, among whom 35% were of Jewish faith and some 15% were ethnic German.
During the Nazi occupation, Łódź was incorporated directly into the Third Reich. The city was renamed to Litzmannstadt, and its main artery Piotrkowska Street was called Adolf-Hitler-Strasse. Although the city was not destroyed in the aftermath, the material losses were serious as the machinery, raw materials and finished goods have been taken away by the fleeing Nazis.
The Shoah, the darkest episode in the history of Europe, took the lives of all the members of the Jewish community in Łódź. The way of death led from the local ghetto to the Nazi death camps in Oświęcim (Auschwitz) and Chełmno (Kulmhof). The remaining material symbols of the Jewish culture, the inherent parts of the cultural landscape of Łódź are historic buildings such as the centre of the Jewish community (18, Pomorska Street), the Reicher synagogue (28, Rewolucji 1905 Street) and the biggest necropolis in Europe covering an area of 4100 acres (40, Bracka Street) where one hundred and sixty thousand graves and seventy thousand Jewish headstones, masebhas, are preserved.
The liaison officer from Warsaw was born in Łódź
Jan Karski, a liaison officer of the Polish underground infiltrated both the Warsaw Ghetto and a German concentration camp and then carried the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to a mostly disbelieving West. He was later professor at Georgetown University.
The last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising studied in Łódź
Marek Edelman, a Jewish-Polish political and social activist, and cardiologist. Before his death in 2009, Edelman was the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. After the war, he remained in Poland and studied at Łódź Medical School. He became a noted cardiologist who invented an original life-saving operation.
The Promised Land
Łódź has been depicted in 1975 Polish drama film “The Promised Land” directed by Andrzej Wajda, recipient of the Honorary Oscar and the Palme d’Or, and a prominent member of the “Polish Film School”. Wajda presented a shocking image of the city, with its dirty and dangerous factories and ostentatiously opulent residences devoid of taste and culture. The movie was based on an 1899 novel by the Polish author and Nobel laureate, Władysław Reymont. It is considered one of his most important works after “The Peasants”. The novel “The Promised Land” was originally published as installments in the industrial city of Łódź by the daily “Kurier Codzienny” from 1897 to 1898.
Łódź`s Louvre in Polish Manchester
Museum of the City has its seat in one of the most impressive buildings in Łódź, the former Poznanski`s Palace (Pałac Poznańskiego, 15, Ogrodowa Street, next to Manufaktura complex). A beautiful 19th century building was built by Izrael Poznański – a textile magnate and a philanthropist. The palace along with its garden is located in the Northern part of the city, in the close neighbourhood of factory buildings and labourer’s houses. Along with them, it forms an industrial-residential complex, typical for „the Polish Manchester”. The corner-storeyed brick dwelling house with clipped corner with free-standing buildings – ground floor dyeworks, wooden outbuilding, square and garden, which Izrael Poznanski bought in 1877, gave the beginning of this monumental building. The property has changed over time in the palace-garden complex, repeatedly transformed as the changing social status of the Poznanski’s family. Building of residence, often being compared to the Parisian Louvre, served Łódź industrial bourgeoisie to achieve prestige and consolidate their identity.
City within the city
The old textile districts illustrate the power and the investing momentum of those outstanding industrialists. In Tymienieckiego Street stands the oldest industrial plant in the city called Kopisch’s Bleachery (Bielnik Kopischa) (1826), and next to Piotrkowska Street is Ludwik Geyer’s White Factory (Biała Fabryka Ludwika Geyera), inside which the first steam powered engines were installed and used. Nowadays the building houses the Textile Museum (Muzeum Włókiennictwa) and the International Fabric Triennial (Miedzynarodowe Triennale Tkaniny) – the most important of its kind in the world.
City of Creative Energy
Present-day Łódź is on an upward trajectory of its own, a cultural phenomenon and a fascinating place inhabited by distinguished artists, scientists and industrialists. They are flocking here in their tens of thousands, drawn by cheap rents, a lively social scene and initiatives like Urban Forms, the street art project which spawned The Old Lady With The Chicken, along with dozens of other multi-storey murals across town.
Łódź is a modern city deeply rooted in tradition. A city of the multicultural heritage of Poles, Germans, Jews and Russians. A city of the industrial revolution, of the steam engine and the electrical era. It is the city housing the world-famous Modern Art Museum (Muzeum Sztuki Współczesnej) and the Łódż Film School (Łódzka Szkoła Filmowa). Łódź is a city of creative energy, vibrating with the pulse of our modern era.
The culture – a variety of possibilities
Every lover of contemporary art should go to the Modern Art Museum in Łódź. When visiting Łódź the tourist should also drop in to see a performance at the Grand Theatre or in one of the dramatic theatres: St. Jaracza Theatre, Teatr Nowy, Teatr Powszechny. The connoisseurs of classical music know that Artur Rubinstein was born and grew up in Łódź. Many famous artists were and still are connected with this city. One might mention such personalities as:
– Andrzej Wajda was a Polish film and theatre director. Recipient of an Honorary Oscar and the Palme d’Or, he was a prominent member of the “Polish Film School”. He was best known especially for his trilogy of war films consisting of “A Generation”, “Kanał” (Sewer), “Man of Marble and “Ashes and Diamonds”. Four of his films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: “The Promised Land”, “The Maids of Wilko”, “Man of Iron”, and “Katyń”.
– Roman Polański, film director, producer, writer, and actor. Having made films in Poland, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, he is considered one of the few “truly international filmmakers”. Awarded with several prizes and known for many splendid films like “Rosemary`s Baby”, “Chinatown”, “The Pianist” and “The Ghost Writer” among them.
– Max Factor, Sr., a Polish-Jewish businessman, founder of the cosmetics giant Max Factor & Company, he largely developed the modern cosmetics industry and popularised the term “make-up” in noun form based on the verb.
– Mentioned above Artur Rubinstein, a Polish-American classical pianist. He received international acclaim for his performances of the music written by a variety of composers and many regard him as the greatest Chopin interpreter of his time. He was described by “The New York Times” as one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. He played in public for eight decades
– Kazimierz Dejmek, a Polish actor, theatre and film director, and politician. At the end of November 1967, the National Theatre presented Adam Mickiewicz’s 1824 play “Dziady” (Forefathers’ Eve) directed by himself. The production was to have considerable repercussions for his career and for Poland itself. After the 14th performance (on January 30th, 1968), Poland’s Communist government banned any further performances of the play on the grounds that it contained “anti-Russian” and “anti-socialist” references. Dejmek was expelled from the Communist Party and fired from the National Theatre. The ban was condemned by the both Warsaw Writers’ and the Actors’ Union, followed by a student protest at the University of Warsaw which spread throughout Poland. From 1969 to 1972 Dejmek was basically in exile and primarily worked outside Poland where he directed in the Nationaltheatret in Oslo, the Schauspielhaus in Düsseldorf, the Burgtheater in Vienna, and Giorgio Strehler’s Piccolo Teatro in Milan.
– Jerzy Kosiński, an award-winning Polish-American novelist and two-time President of the American Chapter of P.E.N., who wrote primarily in English. He survived WWII and, as a young man, emigrated to the U.S., where he became a citizen. He was known for various novels, among them “The Painted Bird” and “Being There”, which was adapted as an Academy Award-winning film.
– Andrzej Sapkowski, a Polish fantasy writer, former translator and economist. He is best known for his widely popular book series, “The Witcher”. An action role-playing hack and slash video game, one of the worldwide best sellers is based on this book. The game received mostly positive reviews and its cumulative score stands at 81 out of 100 on Metacritic. Michael Lafferty from GameZone gave the game 8.8 out of 10 describing it as deep, immersive game that will “ask you to think and make choices, not just hack and slash your way to glory”. The Witcher’s cinematic intro was nominated for the 2007 VES Awards in the category of Outstanding Pre-Rendered Visuals in a Video Game and the game’s soundtrack was voted “Best Fantasy Game Soundtrack” in the 2007 Radio Rivendell Fantasy Awards.
– Marcin Gortat, NBA basketball player for the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was a second-round draft choice of the Phoenix Suns in the 2005 NBA draft and has also played for the Orlando Magic.
– Jerzy Janowicz, a Polish professional tennis player who is the current highest-ranked male Polish player. He has achieved victories over Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt, Tommy Haas, David Nalbandian, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet, Grigor Dimitrov, Radek Štěpánek, Janko Tipsarević, Jürgen Melzer, Marin Čilić, Nicolás Almagro and Ernests Gulbis.
Many cultural events in Łódź are very special in character, and became renowned. Those are the Camerimage Festival, the ballet meetings or the year-by-year more popular Festival of the Dialogue of the Four Cultures reflecting the multi – national roots of city.
The numerous cinemas, community centres, art exhibitions, galleries and clubs further supplement the range of amusement and cultural services. A street which is a phenomenon on a national scale is the Piotrkowska Street with its unique climate. Its pubs, cafes and restaurants are a meeting point for the inhabitants of the city and the visitors.
The Leon Schiller’s National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź
After 1958, the most “red” time in the Communist era the school became one of the most notable cultural think-tanks of Poland, with many outsiders and artists not supported by the Communist authorities joining it. Various discussion clubs and relative liberty of speech promoted by the new rector, Jerzy Toeplitz, added to its value. For instance, two of the students of the university (Jerzy Matuszkiewicz and Witold Sobociński) became the first jazz musicians in Poland after WWII to be allowed by the authorities to organize a concert. Kirk Douglas visited the school in 1966. His visit was documented in Kirk Douglas the documentary.
After the events of March 1968, the period of liberty came to an end. Toeplitz was fired, as were most of the tutors. However, with the advent of Edward Gierek and his regime, the school once again started to bloom.
The School has three Oscar-winning alumni: Roman Polański, Andrzej Wajda and Zbigniew Rybczyński, while alumnus Krzysztof Kieślowski was nominated for an Oscar. Both Polański and Wajda won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002 and 1981, respectively.
The Polish 1968 political crisis, also known in Poland as March 1968 or March events relates to a major student and intellectual protest action against the government of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL). The crisis resulted in the suppression of student strikes by security forces in all major academic centres across the country and the subsequent repression of the Polish dissident movement. It was also accompanied by a mass emigration following an anti-Semitic (internally branded “anti-Zionist” at the time) campaign waged by the minister of internal affairs, General Mieczysław Moczar, with the approval of First Secretary Władysław Gomułka of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR). The protests coincided with the events of the Prague Spring in neighboring Czechoslovakia – raising new hopes of democratic reforms among the intelligentsia. The unrest culminated in the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 20th, 1968 which has remained Polish-Czech antagonism until now.
“HollyŁódź” & Łódź Walk of Fame
Łódź has been capitalizing on its film history – Łódź is jokingly referred to as the “HollyŁódź” of Poland and hosts several film festivals and many other cultural events. Being the Polish Hollywood, Łódź has its own Walk of Fame (in Piotrkowska Street between 6 Sierpnia Street and Rubinstein Passage). Some of the names are Pola Negri, Roman Polański and Andrzej Wajda.
Disco in a former power plant
Łódź constitutes a good example of revitalization processes. A few years ago architects and designers brought back to life historic industrial complex of Izrael Poznański and changed it into Manufaktura, a modern trade and entertainment centre. In post-industrial buildings around the Market Square there are a climbing wall, a bowling alley and a fitness club, as well as the Cinema City centre with a three-dimensional IMAX 3D HD theatre and many more attractions. Manufaktura also invites to visit its numerous restaurants and an exceptional disco located in a former power plant. Children can amuse themselves in the interactive Experymentarium (Experimental Centre) and the amazing Kinderplanet.
Today Łódź is still attracting business due to its central location (being geographical “heart” of Poland), proximity to the capital, investors-friendly policy of the municipality, scientific and human resources. Łódź authorities undertake many actions in order to improve the city attractiveness – develop the airport, invest in new roads and quality of railway infrastructure.
There is a certain charm to Łódź in its partially renovated façades and leitmotivs, not to mention its large artistic traditions, even if not immediately evident. With a little bit of persistence, you’ll see the magic Łódź has to offer. For a different and eye-opening experience of the world and its cultures, Łódź is certainly a recommended destination.
By Agata Szostkowska
Photos: Michał Stanisławski
© Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2017. All rights reserved.
The St. Joseph`s Church – first church in Łódź
The Church of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Piotrkowska Street, main promenade of Łódź
The statue of Artur Rubinstein
A bench of Julian Tuwim
Manufaktura, former industrial complex founded by Izrael Poznański now arts centre, shopping mall, and leisure complex in Łódź.
The former factory`s main entrance. The clock said time was precious.
Łódź`s Walk of Fame
A commercial mural