Facing the Monument: Facing the Future

11 March 2015 | By Bazarov

'Bolt' and the problem of Soviet ballet, 1931

16 February 2015 | By Ivan Sollertinsky

Some Thoughts on the Ballets Russes Abroad

16 December 2014 | By Isabel Stockholm

Last Orders for the Grand Duchy

11 December 2014 | By Bazarov

Rozanova and Malevich – Racing Towards Abstraction?

15 October 2014 | By Mollie Arbuthnot

Walter Spies, Moscow 1895 – Indonesia 1942

13 August 2014 | By Bazarov

The Genius of Erte

28 April 2014 | By Rachel Hajek

Solidarity, people!

24 March 2014 | By Renée-Claude Landry

Guest Blog | Pulsating Crystals

17 February 2014 | By Robert Chandler Chandler

Guest Blog | Stenbergs' Faces

03 February 2014 | By Paul Rennie

Shostakovich: A Russian Composer?

05 December 2013 | By Bazarov

Travelling with intourist

31 July 2013 | By Richard Barling

Impressions of Post- Soviet Warsaw by Harriet Halsey

05 May 2015 | By

I had been to Poland once before on a school trip and remembered being surprised at how welcoming I found the city of Krakow. That, among other reasons, was why in 2013 I decided to revisit Poland for a month, this time living and working in Warsaw. I very quickly realised the differences between the two cities. These are extracts from the journal I kept whilst working in Warsaw in 2013.

'To me the tops of these Soviet style tower blocks resemble what people thought of as futuristic in the 1950’s. The large satellite dishes and missile shaped aerials and wires and rungs stuck out of a grey, patchy obelisk. Everything is built square and skyward. Box on top of box on top of balcony, topped by countless aerials. There are birds all over the city of Warsaw. They aren’t like pigeons, these are small flitty brown birds with black beady eyes and cobweb legs. It’s funny how a city so rectangular and dusty and grey is home to so many of these delicate birds. I’m also having trouble with the trams. There isn’t much information anywhere about which tram goes where or what ticket you’re supposed to buy. I don’t think I’ve paid for transport once since I’ve been here. There are police and security people everywhere. Mostly young men and women with big black boots and vests that say ‘OCHRANA’. All I’ve seen them do is move homeless people around.’


‘There’s graffiti all over the stairwell of the apartment block I’m staying in. My flat is a short walk from Warsaw’s largest football stadium and ‘Legia Warzawa White Power’ is written everywhere in permanent marker. I imagine football hooliganism is a big problem in Praga. I guess this building must be part of rival gang territory since there’s anarchist symbols as well. The wall outside my flat says ‘Skin’s must die and I do it’. On my journey to work I walk past a swastika carved into a sixth floor balcony. I stopped and stared when I first saw it. I felt uneasy about what people would think if they saw me looking so now I avert my eyes whenever I walk past. That also makes me feel uneasy.’

‘Everyone at work tells me about the history of Warsaw. At first I thought it was funny how knowledgeable people are about the cities past, but you soon realise how integral that is to the way of life here. Warsaw was completely flattened in World War II and was defended mostly by civilians in the Warsaw uprising. It was then completely rebuilt in the Soviet style. The rest of Poland has an awkward relationship with the city since bricks and building materials were taken from other towns and sent to rebuild the capital at the expense of the rest of the country. It’s only in recent years that the city has started to create its own identity, and even more recently develop a subculture. Hardly anyone who lives in Warsaw comes from Warsaw. It’s a city full of young people who grew up in surrounding districts, who still send their laundry home.’


‘I met [Jan] today and he said it was a brave thing for me to strike out on my own in a new city. He said when he was twenty he went and worked in Belarus for a summer, but that that was different because of the political situation. I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. [Adam] later told me he was working that weekend at a Belorussian rock festival on the Poland- Belarus border. I asked if Belorussian music was popular in Poland and he said not really, but you can’t have music festivals in Belarus because of the government, so they have to have them over here. He explained the Lukashenko regime and the tight restrictions on culture, art and journalism in Belarus and how it’s called ‘Europe’s Last Dictatorship’. How did I not know about any of this?’

 ‘[Jan] says it’s hard to be a photographer here since it’s still a very new and under respected art form. People will buy paintings or sculptures but don’t see photographs as valuable and there’s barely any industry surrounding the commercial side of documentary photography. Photography might be new and under respected but that means there hasn’t been the chance for it to become cynical or laboured. The art scene is still new and fresh enough that it hasn’t been tinged with irony. It’s the polar opposite of London.’