Vintage vanguard or vehement vogue?

Nowa Nowa Huta

Nowa Huta was started in 1949 as a satellite industrial town near Krakow in place of villages of Mogiła, Pleszów and Krzesławice. Its creation was to ‘correct the class imbalance’, as the Communist authorities of the then newly created People's Republic of Poland, had encountered substantial resistance to their new regime from middle-class Cracovians.  Nowa Huta was planned to attract people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to the region, such as peasants and the working class, becoming not only a huge centre of heavy industry, but an ideal town for the communist propaganda. Its original center was the Central Square (Plac Centralny), built in monumental socialist realism style to arouse a feeling of persistence and power of the new communist society.

Nowa Huta Makarewicz

Nowa Huta 1In 1951 Nowa Huta was joined with Krakow as its new district and in the 1960s the city grew rapidly, mostly with huge blocks of flats, thriving for years against economical reasons (coal had to be transported from Silesia and iron ore from the Soviet Union; the products were shipped to other parts of Poland since local demand was relatively small).
 
In the 1980s Krakow’s working class district became a place of many demonstrations and violent street protests of the Solidarity movement, fought by the police, as at that time, almost 29,000 of the 38,000 workers of the then Lenin's Steelworks belonged to the Trade Union "Solidarity". When communism collapsed Nowa Huta fell into economical and social decline, up to the point of being the most notorious part of Krakow.
 
However, in recent years Nowa Huta again became a residential destination. – We want to examine whether the process currently ongoing in Nowa Huta can be called gentrification, i.e. resettling a former working class district by representatives of middle class – explains Jacek Gadecki, PhD, of Humanities Faculty of Krakow’s University of Mining and Metallurgy (AGH), an initiator and leader of ‘I love Nowa Huta’ project.
 
Nowa Huta 6Urban gentrification refers to the changes that result when wealthier people, the ‘gentry’, acquire property in low income and working class communities. As a 
result of consequent average income and demands’ increase, the cost of life increases, sometimes up to the point of in accessibility of lower-income residents, and lastly their move out or eviction. – We have a rare opportunity to analyze social changes in Nowa Huta as they happen, as many of such research was done after the process was completed – says Gadecki pointing out to London’s Islington, New York’s Brooklyn, and even Warsaw’s Praga. Nowa Huta 2
 
The direct purpose of ‘I love Nowa Huta’ project is to question newly moved in residents for reasons behind their decision. Initial outcome points out that these persons chose Nowa Huta not only for attractive price, but also quality of flats and beauty of the surroundings. What is more, clichés of Nowa Huta didn’t stand a chance compared with a lot of greenery and good communication.
 
According to Gadecki, changes in former working class districts occur due to people who do not follow popular trends set by developers’ market when looking for an interesting place of living. Despite being moderately wealthy, they have a great cultural wealth and a sense of taste. Very often they work as academic teachers, journalists, NGO’s representatives and students. They not only change the district’s social structure, but also its character.

Nowa Huta 3

- Our research is done not only to classify social processes, but also for practical purpose of process evaluation and moderation. Sharing results with local authorities will perhaps help them maintain a healthy course of changes and prevent extremes – sociologist points out. Gadecki explains that if revitalization is held top-down, it may neglect needs of previous residents and kill the intriguing diversity, but introducing certain solutions is enough to satisfy all resident’s needs. An example can be Berlin’s Kreuzberg, where mom and pop stores and workshops pay lower taxes, which allows them to withstand competition from other, commercial parties.
 
‘I love Nowa Huta’ is to be finished by the end of fall 2012.