|Old Town Square today|
So how does a city that was essentially completely destroyed recover? In Warsaw's case, it was done brick by brick. Seriously. After the War surviving residents returned to their city determined to rebuild what was left of the place they once called home. The Communist influence of the Cold War saw concrete buildings being erected to address the dire shortage of of housing but before that, in the area where Warsaw's Old Town once stood, a new "Old Town" was rebuilt. Over the course of five years, bricks were brought in from other parts of the country and ever so slowly the Old Town returned to its former glory. Brick by brick. No detail was too small as marketplaces, churches, and palaces were rebuilt in the same design as the ones that had been destroyed. It took time and some details took decades to complete but it was (and is still being) built. Ornate architectural details and even original colors and patterns were carefully replicated. Although it wasn't without controversy since the Old Town was in fact new, in 1980 Warsaw's reconstructed Old Town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and today is a proud symbol of Warsaw's rebirth.
|A local musician|
While the city feels vibrant, modern, and moving forward--glass sky scrapers dominate much of the skyline-- there is a feeling of sadness about Warsaw that I just could not shake. Maybe it is because I've learned such horrifying details about her past or that the past is really a part of Warsaw's moving forward. Regardless of its cause, it doesn't appear that Warsaw is hiding or ashamed of her history. This is evidenced by even the darkest parts of Warsaw's history being on display in the form of picture filled outdoor museums for all visitors to see. It is as if Warsaw is proudly showing off how far they have come in their reconstruction. And yes, while I know that the "old" parts of the city really aren't old in the true European sense of the word, at least on the surface they look like they have been there for centuries. And this ongoing reconstruction of the city is just the latest chapter in her history. Perhaps I do need to follow the advice of the locals and return in a year to see what has transpired. It could be exactly the same or it could be totally different.
*** For a brief but thought provoking look at Warsaw's destruction and subsequent reconstruction, check out Mark Krawczynski's film Out of the Ashes: The Reconstruction of Warsaw's Old Town After World War II.