Second Week: Józefów and Łódź
September 3, 2009
After many tears and sad goodbyes in Częstochowa, we set off for the Warszawa Centralna train station to meet my dad’s family (3 1/2 hours later). We then made the 30 minute drive to Józefów–the town in which my dad grew up. He really had the best of both worlds — he grew up right up the street from a river, where he was surrounded by nature, but went into the city to go to school, shop, etc.
Anyway, we had my dad’s enormous extended family over for dinner, talked a lot, caught up, etc. They all live on one street, in multi-generational homes. For example, my great aunt and her husband live one house over, on the bottom floor. They recently added onto the house and their son Piotruś (about whom you’ll hear more later), his wife and their twin boys live above them. Iza, Piotruś’ sister, lives in a little house right next to the bigger house with her husband and their little daughter, Litka. It’s nice, but I can imagine it gets sticky.
My brother had to get back to the States a little earlier than my parents because he only got a week of vacation, so we sent him off on Wednesday, Septemeber 2nd. Thursday, we drove over to Łódź to see my school and check out the city!
Łódź (pronounced woo-dj) is not one of the prettiest cities in Poland. It’s an industrial town– once the capital of the textile industry in Poland. There are many old factories and mills which continue to line its streets, some of which were turned into museums (the White Factory of Ludwik Geyer which is now the Central Museum of Textiles), others have been transformed into modern shopping centers (Poznanski’s Factory, which is now Manufaktura).
Łódź has a rich, multiethnic history, which once included large Polish, German, and Jewish communities. Andrzej Wajda’s film (based on the novel by Władysław Reymont) Ziemia Obiecana (The Promised Land) is an intriguing look into the cultural and ethnic dynamics of this city in the early 1800s… I’d recommend it.
Upon arriving in Łódź, we (meaning my parents, grandma, aunt, and myself) immediately stopped by my host institution– the Władysław Strzemiński Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź. There weren’t many people in the building, but we got to walk around and see some of the studios…
Hey, the door was open. This school is basically a museum… these old-school, punch-card jaquard looms are from the early 1900s.
This is some of what comes off the looms. I later found out that the students only design the patterns and they are handwoven by the technician (Pan Wojtek)! Luckkyyyy! I’m going to be weaving on the gobelin (tapestry) looms… a little different.
After visiting the school, we walked down Piotrkowska Street, the main artery of Łódź. Rather than a town square, Łódź has this long street, apparently one of the longest commercial streets in Europe (4.9 km/about 3 miles). Lots of nice cafes, shops, etc.
A lot of factory owners became very wealthy from the textile trade in Łódź. They built themselves brownstones along Piotrkowska Street.
Here’s an example of the really ostentatious displays of wealth you can see along Piotrkowska…