Nowa Huta - odd socialist realism New City

Nowa Huta (pronounced [ˈnɔva ˈxuta], literally The New Steel Mill) – primarily a separate town, designed and built from scratch by Communists near Krakow just after the Second World War. The idea was to build a town according to new standards (the so-called Stalinist architecture, or Social Classicism). The erection of Nowa Huta began in 1949, as a part of 6-Year Plan (the second  centralized plan of the People's Republic of Poland development) which was concentrated on heavy industry. Since 1951 Nowa Huta has been a part of Krakow.

Nowa Huta is settled continuously since the neolithic age (there are only few places like this in Poland). It is situated on a terrain taken by the Communist authorities from former villages of Mogila, Pleszow and Krzeslawice. Peasants had been expropriated with only 5-10% compensation for lost estate. Vladimir Lenin Steelworks (nowadays: commonly known as ‘Tadeusz Sendzimir Steelwork', correct name: ArcelorMittal Poland S.A. Oddział Krakow), once one of the largest steelworks in the middle Europe, was built on the most fertile soils – chernozem (black earth).

Archeological excavations were conducted during whole period of Nowa Huta  building in every weather conditions and even during the night. It revealed several dozens of items made of clay, rock, bone, flint, non-ferrous metals, horn and iron; some of the findings were 5.000 years old.

Nowa Huta district was precisely designed – around Plac Centralny (Central Square) buildings have 4-5 floors, the further away from the Square the lower buildings are (on Sportowe Housing, which is peripheral estate, there are only 1-floor houses). Nowa Huta sectors (with about 15.000 citizens each) divide into subdivisions (with about 5.000 citizens each) with schools in the center. Even nowadays some places and streets in Nowa Huta have names connected with historical polish-soviet ‘friendship', e.g. Aleja Przyjazni (Friendship Avenue) or Osiedle Zgody (Agreement Housing).

During ten years 50.000 rooms in 18.000 flats were built. 90km of roads and 550km of sewerage and water supply systems were created. Fifteen schools and one hospital (with 840 beds) were build.

Myth #1: Nowa Huta is a dangerous district of Krakow and has high crime. This stereotype might be caused by the very beginning of Nowa Huta. Many new inhabitants from near villages and other parts of Poland were not connected with each other. Also some chaos with check-in and  squatting linked with not finishing flats on time appears. Due to this Nowa Huta could had elevated level of robberies, frauds or illegal residence, but nowadays it's inhabited mainly by harmless elderly people, which creates a unique laid-back atmosphere.

Myth #2: Nowa Huta, escpecially steelwork, pollutes Krakow (precious Old Town). Industry causes only 10% of pollution in Krakow. Nowa Huta has easily-ventilated urban system, lots of green areas and is heated with heat from combined heat and power station in almost 100%.

What to do in Nowa Huta?

The main reason to visit Nowa Huta is to feel its bizarre atmosphere of Stalinist architecture: monumental buildings and streets which were aimed to make you feel a small part of the big New Society. For the architecture, head toward the surroundings of Plac Centralny and to the entrance of Tadeusz Sendzimir Steelwork (former Lenin Steelwork).

Wanda's Mound – one of four famous earth mounds of Krakow. I was erected in the 8th century. It is believed that Wanda (king's Krak daughter; he was the legendary founder of Krakow) was buried here after her suicide, when she jumped into Vistula River because she didn't want to marry a German prince.

Museum of Poland under the Communist Regime (Museum of PRL) in a classic Stalinist-style building of the former Swiatowid Cinema – exhibitions connected with daily living under the communist regime. Besides political posters you can also see a typical polish flat furnishings of the time.

A Russian tank on the street? Yes, of course, not only on its facebook site but also on Gorali Housing, in the old part of Nowa Huta. It's parked in front of Museum of Armed Action and Veteran's Home. It is IS-2, weight 46 tons and was used in battles in Berlin and Prague during the Second World War.

Ark-shaped church? It is the Arka Pana (Lord's Ark) church and Chapel of Conciliation in Bienczyce. It was the first church built in Nowa Huta. Of course not without problems – communist authorities didn't want any church in ‘perfect communist city', but after riots they finally agreed on building. In 1969 cardinal Karol Wojtyla (later pope John Paul II) laid the foundation stone.

You can see which buildings were built in Nowa Huta before 1950 - they have skewed roofs. In 1950 Polish United Worker's Party Central Committee banned skewed roofs in order to protect forests, which were strongly depleted after the Second World War. All buildings built after that time have flat roofs.

Polish Aviation Museum – established in 1912, one of the oldest in the world and one of the eight world's best aviation museum (scored by CNN TV). It's placed on the one of the Europe's oldest airports (now used occasionally for air shows). We can see e.g. planes from the personal collection of Hermann Göring (22 airplanes). Highly recommended to visit!

Contemporary Nowa Huta border overlaps with old border between Austrian and Russian empires (during the so-called partition of Poland, a period when Poland was invaded by three empires and its land was divided between the three parties ), therefore many Austro-Hungarian forts are settled here. These forts are a part of ‘Stronghold Krakow' forts system. You can see that such a fort once was established in the Royal Castle in Krakow (Wawel).

Vladimir's Lenin giant statue… Not nowadays. It was placed since 1973 in central Nowa Huta's Avenue of Roses. In 1979 somebody tried to blow it up, but Lenin only lost a part of the right foot. The statue was pulled down in 1989 after numerous protest actions by local citizens and then was bought by Swedish millioner, Big Brent Erlandsson.

How to visit Nowa Huta?

Very easy by buses and trams (timetables available here) from Krakow old town!

Tram: 1, 4, 9, 10, 14, 16, 22, 52, 62

Bus: 174, 152

4, 10, 16, 174: stops in the heart of Nowa Huta – Stalinistic Style Plac Centralny (Central Square)

4, 22, 62, 174: stops by the Stalinistic Style gates of the former Vladimir Lenin Steelwork

Increasingly popular become organised trips around Nowa Huta in  communist-time cars. Contact your travel agent.