I Like Zagłębie went on a trip to find the traces of novels ‘Korzeniec’ and ‘Puder i Pył’ written by Zbigniew Białas. We could feel the atmosphere of Sosnowiec of 100 years ago.
James Joyce thought that if Dublin was ever to disappear from the Earth, it could be reconstructed on the basis of his novel ‘Ulysses’. Although this has not happened so far, the impact of the book on the life of the capital of Ireland is ongoing and strong. One should walk around Dublin with a copy of ‘Ulysses’ open, choosing the relevant quote to the currently visited street and chewing a gorgonzola cheese sandwich à la Leopold Bloom. Unfortunately, Mr Alojzy Korzeniec had only managed to drink one beer before he lost his head, so there is no option of Korzeniec lunch in Sosnowiec: therefore, the only thing to do is take a walk in search of Sosnowiec of 100 years ago.
Zbigniew Białas and Murderer in the Cathedral
The first stop on our tour was Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Sosnowiec (ul. Kościelna 1), in 1914 the parish church where the final scene of the second novel by Zbigniew Białas, ‘Puder i pył’, is set. Just like editor Monsiorski, we walked up two sets of broad stairs. Seventeen first. Then six more. Next we listened to the thrilling tale of a chase after the murderer of Alojzy Korzeniec, and finally went on to discover that the chancel still holds a preserved element of the original floor made of “Korzeniec” tiles.
The Smuggler Scene
Walking down Kościelna, Sienkiewicza and Teatralna streets, we reached Teatr Zagłębia (The Zagłębie Theatre at ul. Teatralna 4), formerly known as Winter Theatre, the stage that gave ‘Korzeniec’ an altternative life and made the novel famous nationwide. An interesting fact is that Zbigniew Białas referred to the stage success of his debut novel in its sequel, ‘Puder i pył’, in the scene where the theatre manager and director discuss a play about Sosnowiec. About these places. About the people from here! The magic was complete with the sudden appearance of actors Małgorzata Saniak and Tomasz Muszyński. The latter plays the part of a smuggler who transports the head of Alojzy Korzeniec across the border in the above-mentioned play.
Is ‘Iskra’ gone?
If ‘Korzeniec’ is ever to be made into a movie, the memorable scene where editor Monsiorski shouts: I love you, Sosnovtche! will definitely not be filmed in the original setting, because the tenement house that was the seat of his journal ‘Iskra’ (ul. Krzywa 1) no longer exists. However, we still have ulica Krzywa that keeps staggering left and right in a classic drunken zigzag…
My name is Apolonia Chałupiec… Pola Negri
… and ulica Krzywa still crosses ulica Kołłątaja, where in 1919-1920 lived Apolonia Chałupiec, the actress who went on to gain global fame under the name of Pola Negri and continues to be perceived as one of the most famous people in the history of the city. No wonder then, that Zbigniew Białas led us to the tenement house at no. 6 (ul. Kołłątaja 6), where we listened to the story of her acquaintance with Count Eugeniusz Dąmbski, which is one of the themes in ‘Powder and Dust’. The future spouses first met…
… at the Railway Station in Sosnowiec
which was the next stop on our route (ul. 3 Maja 16). There, the novel traces were complemented with the still insufficiently known story of victorious battle of Sosnowiec railway station fought by the January insurgents. It is also worth mentioning that, according to the novel, one hundred years ago the station saw the departure of forty-six passenger trains. Forty-six. Each day.
Had it not been for the Railway…
Following the construction of the railway station practically in the middle of nowhere in 1859, a railway church was built on the initiative of the local railwaymen. Nowadays, it is a parish Church of the Holliest Heart of Jesus Christ (ul. 3 Maja 20). Mr Alojzy, the author of the floor in the oldest sacred building in the city centre, drops in here for a while on his way from Sielec Park to Victoria Hotel.
The final stop of the trip was our visit to the Evangelical Cemetry (ul. Smutna 6). Among the tombs of many people significant for the history of the city, such as Franz Schoen, Ludwik Mauve, Konrad Gamper or Alexander Lamprecht, the central place is the huge mausoleum of one of the founding fathers of the city of Sosnowiec, Heinrich Dietel, with his wife. For a couple of minutes, the chapel in the upper part of the monumental building was transformed into a temple of literature, where the writer-priest read a moving scene from ‘Korzeniec’, in which Dietl’s granddaughter, Inge, suffers an attack of hysteria after discovering a horrible truth: the vast tomb is to become the future place of her rest too.
Anywhere But Here
Emma Niukanen, the Finnish governess, was much more relaxed (although far from enthusiastic), about the potential problem of being buried in Sosnowiec, in this awful city, among the fumes and vapours that even do harm to a stiff. She dreamt: I’d likely get a modest tomb not far from the Dietel mausoleum. This vision became real. It was at her tomb (ul. Smutna 6) that our trip ended and resulted in the first photo coverage in the history of I Like Zagłębie. We were left with a certain sense of lack, because Zbigniew Białas described many more interesting places in Sosnowiec. We’d like to encourage you to discover them. Ideally with a book in your hands.
We went on a trip to find the traces of novels ‘Korzeniec’ and ‘Puder i Pył’ by Zbigniew Białas on 21 May 2016, invited by EMPiK and the author himself. The guide was Paweł Nalepa.