On Saturday, April 21st we took our cameras and went for a stroll around Będzin. It wasn’t, however, an ordinary walk, but a photo tale of the history of Będzin.
We visited certain places that only exist in the photos now. As everyone knows, we love photography, so we couldn’t miss the 4th Będzin Photowalk. We asked the man behind the whole thing – Roman Kowenia, the author of the popular Będzin w starej i nowej fotografii fanpage, about his impressions of the event and plans for the future.
This year’s walk is already the fourth one. When did you come up with the idea of organising such an event? What were the beginnings of the photowalks?
Where did you get the idea of a photowalk from? It was obviously a consequence of my activity on the fanpage called ‘Będzin w starej i nowej fotografii’. The fans suggested that it would be great to see the places shown in the old photos. And so, one day in April I organised the Będzin photowalk – without a number, cause I had no idea that it would be repeated. I must admit that the photowalks were and continue to be premeditated from my side, because I get the constant lack of photos of Będzin from the past. And I thought that it would be easier for a person who might want to discover Będzin in one hundred years’ time thanks to the photos taken during our photowalks.
A lot of people attended this year. What was it like in the previous years?
The attendance during the photowalks has always been very high. I must admit that I actually limited the number of participants. It couldn’t be a mass event, also for the safety reasons. The only exception was the last year’s walk, which was scheduled to start at 10 AM. I was sitting in the car on the castle hill, it was raining heavily outside, and I was feeling resigned.
Then the sun started to shine at 9:50 AM and the participants of the event began to appear. The walk was a success, and we finished it in large numbers with żurek (Polish sour rye soup) financed by Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Będzina (Society of Friends of Będzin).
The highlight of this year’s walk was the reconstruction of an old photo – can you tell us the story of this photo, and do we know who the author is? Who are the people in the photo?
This old photo taken with the ruins of the Będzin Castle in the background shows the management and members of the ‘Sokół’ Gymnastic Association. From the left: J.Laubitz, F.Wyszmacki, S.Ruciński; Benedykt Misiurski in the middle; finally, B.Gołębiewski and W.Konopka on the right. The banner is held by T.Lisowski. A while ago I reworked this photo in the style that I show on my fanpage; it was then that I thought it would be cool to make its contemporary version.
But then I immediately got cold water poured on my plans: how are you, Romek, going to find thirty stuntsmen and the banner? So I kept thinking and thinking… and I finally figured it out! The members of the Society of Friends of Będzin are somewhat the heirs of this social Będzin tradition. I shared my idea with their chairman, Marcin Lazar, and this is how I found both the banner and the reenactors. Of course, we were also supported by the fans of Będzin w starej i nowej fotografii, as well as the participants of the 4th Będzin Photowalk. My big thanks go to everyone who contributed to the making of the contemporary version of the photo.
What are your plans for the future? Have you got any new ideas?
My plans for the future and ideas… I have plenty of them, but there’s something that verifies and limits them, and it’s called time! I will definitely keep running Będzin w starej i nowej fotografii website, but I’d also like to have time for different types of photos. I have already done a lot of material for the project that I called ‘Górnika Andrzeja spacery z Marleyem’ and would like to take more photos, and then present them in the paper form. I don’t want to jinx it, but after the exhibitions in Wojkowice and Czeladź, the time has probably come for Będzin. I hope that I will manage to show old and new Będzin, together with my friends Wojtek and Piotrek, in the form of an album, and perhaps also an exhibition.
I also have the idea how to celebrate the 660th anniversary of granting city rights to Będzin: I’d like to make 660 portraits of the inhabitants of our town. To show them and preserve for the future a collective portrait of the inhabitants of Będzin in 2018. Those who like and observe my fanpage have noticed that I’m trying to bring back the memory of the monument that once stood in the centre of Będzin, but was blown up by the German occupants in 1939, namely the monument of Nike in Będzin. When I was a little boy, I’d listen to the tales of old Będzin, about how there used to be fish in Czarna Przemsza, and about the monument of Nike. The fish are already back in our river; now we’re waiting for the monument to come back. This time, I’d like to remind of this monument with a short movie. We’ll see how it turns out. Apart from all these plans and dreams, I’d like to keep photographing the world that surrounds me and my grandson Franuś. Well, as much and as little.
Romek, if you were to show a foreigner around Będzin, which places would you show them? What is worth seeing in Będzin?
I’d suggest that our foreign guest should take a walk around Będzin, and for a start, I’d wake up before the dawn and take a morning run to the Górki Małobądzkie area, from where you can admire the sunrise and the panorama of Będzin and Zagłębie. Then they should obviously visit the Będzin Castle, including the mandatory climb to the high tower, Mieroszewski Palace and walk down the Czarna Przemsza Boulevard – it’s a really clean river by now. Then I’d show them the modernist railway station in Będzin, apparently a pearl of this architectural style. Then we take a walk down Małachowskiego street and 3 Maja square, where we can see the old buildings in the town. Of course, I would also show them the former location of the Nike monument in Będzin. The Wiener tenement house and Mizrachi house of prayer are the following stops on our trip. We yet have to visit the Będzin underground, St. Trinity’s church, as well as relax in the park on the Castle Hill.
However, if the foreigner visited our royal town with their children, they’d have to go to Wodny Plac Zabaw (water playground), and if they were passionate about photography, we’d have to keep going. Dorotka hill, from where Łagisza power plant can be seen, the ruins of the cement plant in ‘Grodziec’, the water tower in Grodziec, the Jewish cemetery at ul. Podzamcze and a number of picturesque streets are the places that a photographer must visit. And after an eventful day – barbecue food in my garden. There’s plenty to see in Będzin!
Interview conducted by Rafał Opalski