Fall in Love with Lower Silesia
PRESS MATERIALS OF LOWER SILESIAN VOIVODSHIP
About the peculiarities and beauty of Lower Silesia
with Marcin Krzyżanowski, deputy marshal of Lower
Bird’s-eye view of Wrocław.
In the foreground, Ostrów Tumski
surrounded by the waters
of the River Odra
PRESS MATERIALS OF WROCŁAW CITY HALL
Wojciech Iwanowski: Norman Davies once called the Silesian capital – Wrocław – a microcosm, where you can uncover the history of the Old World. Where does this term come from?
Marcin Krzyżanowski: Wrocław has a very interesting past, which fortunately today seems not to be a burden but rather an asset to be used, especially in the age of globalisation. Here also, like nowhere else, it is possible to consider the effects of wars and great conflicts. As a Wrocław citizen by birth I understand this perfectly. I grew up on an estate of tower blocks, which arose after the war in a place where the former lively district of prewar Wrocław had been full of beautiful townhouses, tramlines and public buildings.
As a teenager, I lived in a place that had only been built in the 1990s, and a lively estate came into being there. Wrocław has changed and continues to change. Currently, fortunately, the city no longer changes hands between countries, only its countenance changes. Since 1989, i.e. since the collapse of the communist regime, Wrocław residents have also been learning to explore the past of the city and to wonder what it means for them – commitment, burden or asset to use for the future. Undoubtedly, an important element of the identity of a Wrocław resident is the notion of openness, which stems in particular from history and from the fact that we all feel at home here. In connection with the exchange of the population in the region after World War II, there are no residents of Wrocław, who can say, „my family has lived here for centuries”.
On the other hand, we already have generations born in the capital of Lower Silesia. We create our own history here and probably soon we will have residents whose grandparents or great grandparents were from Wrocław.
This is a great commitment, you have to skilfully move from the perspective of an open city built from scratch after 1945 to our city of today, with its expressive style.
Openness and Europeanness – these elements undoubtedly define our city.
What distinguishes the inhabitants of Lower Silesia today?
The fact that the inhabitants of Lower Silesia came to these lands after 1945, although they were not fully willing to be here, because many had been thrown out of their „small homelands” or, continuing Davies’ idea, their „microcosms”, and this represents the specificity of this region. There were also those who came here to look for a better life after the war.
Poland in the communist era did not aid Lower Silesians in their task of integrating this foreign land. However, somehow our grandparents succeeded, despite living among alien architecture, with unknown land and crops, strange churches, without their graves and ancestors. This process, in a sense, continues.
Today, my generation can confidently say „I am a Lower Silesian, or child of Wrocław” without looking back at the past, which was in Lviv, Vilnius or central Poland. We are distinguished by our emerging regional identity. This is also probably because the Lower Silesian people are open to others and perfectly fit into today’s Europe without frontiers.
People here understand what it means to be at home, but they also remember how much effort it cost to build this „our” Lower Silesia and to develop it. This process continues and develops.
Today, without regret, we welcome the whole world and show our qualities, both to tourists and to students and investors.
Lower Silesia – to see, not to tell – this slogan perfectly reflects the climate of the region. However, it is worth appreciating not only how much work and effort, but also how much sacrifice was needed to establish ourselves here and how many challenges still lie before us.
Among the residents of Lower Silesia it is increasingly frequently possible to hear words in languages other than Polish. What is attractive in this region of Poland and Europe that today so many newcomers are attracted from different parts of the world?
The region attracts people because it is incredibly attractive – it is socially and culturally open and absorbent. It is close to Prague and Berlin, but also, thanks to the motorways, to Kraków and Warsaw. In this context, we are experiencing a lively economic development, which is generating jobs for Poles and also people from outside Poland.
The presence of renowned universities attracts students from all over the world and the development of the IT sector in Wrocław, and the building of office infrastructure in the city draws many foreigners to work in corporate centres. Developing economic zones and the production plants located within them also attract workers – from Ukraine, but also from distant corners – from Adjara in Georgia or even from Asia. Employers and corporations are moving here. Recruitment agencies have their hands full with the search for employees from around Poland and the world. It is worth mentioning the investment by Mercedes in Jawor – these are the processes that attract Poles and also the citizens of other countries who come for work as specialists in activating such investments.
Some remain, others move on, but all of them, I have the feeling, appreciate the attractiveness of Lower Silesia. Last but not least – Lower Silesia is an incredibly attractive place to explore – we have beautiful mountains, towns, forests, lakes, monuments, unique terrain and a myriad of regional products starting with cheeses, and Sudeten beef, and ending with the beer and wine trail.
This simply attracts people from all over the world. And many of these stay, or return and settle.
Lower Silesia has many remarkable places. Which one should I visit to get to know a little about the region?
As a Wrocław citizen, of course I would recommend starting from the capital of Lower Silesia. I would start from Ostrów Tumski, and then walk across Sand bridge and along the university towards the market square.
Then, I would recommend to everyone a walk from Grunwaldzki bridge, along Wybrzeże Wyspiańskiego, past the zoo, the Centennial Hall and then on in the direction of Sępolno. This is of course tongue in cheek, in Wroclaw there are plenty of beautiful places and interesting sites to visit – the opera, National Forum of Music, the Zajezdnia Centre on Grabiszyńska or the botanical gardens. But, as deputy marshal of the Voivodship, I would also like to encourage you to visit our subregional capitals: Wałbrzych with the castle of Książ and the nearby Owl Mountains; Legnica – the former garden capital of the region and also the origins of the Polish copper industry, with its castle and the Kaczawskie Mountains of course. Definitely, the peace churches in Jawor and Świdnica, where there is also a cathedral, deserve a visit. You cannot fully appreciate the charms of Lower Silesia without a visit to the Jeleniogórska Basin, with its many monuments, interesting attractions and beautiful mountains. The Klodzko basin, the socalled „corner of God”, is also a very important area to visit, with its fortresses, medieval castles and countless shrines that are charmingly scattered over the landscape. Actually, I do not know another region of Poland which has been so endowed with the riches of nature, monuments and unique places to visit.
In our region, you can visit the Strzelin hills with the ruins of a castle on Gromnik hill, look at the crystal outcrops in Jegłowa and on the way visit the unique Cistercian abbey in Henryków, and see the oldest yew tree in Poland and finish with a visit to the gold mine in Złoty Stok. And for a rest after this busy day a quick ride to Lądek Zdrój to the historic pool with its radon waters, just to get our strength back. We simply have a unique region. It is a great treasure but also a responsibility to be taken care of and developed.
Marshal, you have already mentioned universities, is it worth coming to Lower Silesia to gain knowledge and education?
The universities of Wrocław, and also those from Lower Silesia, are actually a magnet for the young. To me, it is important that not only are they educated in modern subject areas, but that they also conduct scientific research and are centres for exchange involving students and the young, scientists, research and thought. The beginnings of these institutions are also important, because all of them to some extent can trace their roots back to Lviv, where many of the lecturers who created Wrocław’s universities came from.
Today, nobody from Europe or from around the world has to be convinced that it is worth studying in Wrocław or Lower Silesia.
Finally, I would like to ask about the places closest to the marshal’s heart. I am one of those people who, although born in the hustle and bustle of the city, like to look for peace outside its boundaries. I prefer to go to the mountains that border the south of our region. A special draw for me is the Rudawy Janowickie area, with the towns of Miedzianka and Mniszków. This is a beautifully picturesque area.
Miedzianka is a ghost town. For hundreds of years, this was set in a thriving mining area. After the war, damage caused by mining meant that the city had to be pulled down. A few buildings were left in place as monuments to its former history. A bit like our earthly life, it will pass away and after us a few memories will remain in the minds of the people we have met on our way through life. One can only hope these may always be good!