NOVEMBER 2012 BACK ISSUE by Tomasz Tomaszewski Part II Miners believe that "a woman underground is bad luck," but that's not why women aren't allowed to mine. It is forbidden by the 45th International Labour Organization Convention. Women are restricted to working in preparation plants, coal sorting plants, and baths. The situation may soon change, however. The European Court of Justice has decided that employment may not be restricted by sex, and women should be allowed to mine coal if they are willing to do so. Stanislaw Kopczyk, aged 53, works at Bumar Labedy as an equipment cleaner. The rolls were brought to his workplace by a gantry crane. He must remove all extraneous elements from the parts before they can be used in the power plant. Miners who work on rescue crews go into highly dangerous places. They never know if they're going to make it back alive, which is why they must trust each other like brothers. They work together, relax together, and celebrate together. And there's good reason: Wiklin has just had a daughter, Julia. The crew has gotten together at "Czajnik's" allotment garden for a celebratory drink. Over beer and grilled sausages, the rescue workers tell tales of adventure. The party is also an opportunity to show off their strength and agility. One of the competitions is arm wrestling. Warsaw's Moma Film Foundation asked kids in Bobrek to make up legends about their neighborhood. Students of Public School nr. 16 wrote a story about Mr. Claw, a coal miner who was buried underground by an earthquake. "He lay there for 10 years before he finally fell into a deep sleep and imagined he was a normal person." According to the children, the character in the story was rescued by an army of 2,000,009 rats that arrived at the mine on tram 38, just like the one the students' grandparents rode. In the legend written by the children in grade 3b, Bobrek was in danger of floating off into the sky, all because of "oddly-shaped strongmen" with triangular heads. "When they walked, the whole earth shook and Bobrek kept going up and up. But nothing ever happened, because the strongmen attached chains to every roof." Grade 2c decided that the name Bobrek comes from bóbr, the Polish word for beaver, and that these animals once helped people. In another story, Bobrek was depicted as a land of birds. It is said that the neighborhood has the most birds in the entire city of Bytom. To an adult, would the name Bobrek ever bring birds to mind? A longwall shearer cuts coal off the wall of mine. Enormous cutting drums move along the coal seam, shearing off strips 1-2 meters wide. The coal is transported directly to containers and hauled up to the surface. Most modern longwall shearers are remotely controlled by operators. Windows in Silesia are often painted red. They say it's because miners would use whatever paint they could bring home from work, and that paint was red. The more probably explanation is different: Silesian housewives are taught by their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers that the color red is resistant to dirt. And that's the whole secret. As a manufacturer of military equipment, including the famous PT-91 Twardy tanks, the Bumar Labedy factory was for many years shrouded in mystery. But the company also produces cranes, excavators, and loaders. In the photo: Workers pour liquid steel into a mold. Most Poles view Upper Silesia through the eyes of Gustaw Morcinek, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, and Pola Gojawiczynska. In his 1950 book Górny Slask (Upper Silesia), Morcinek wrote: "The Silesian miner deserves a closer look. Encountered on the surface, he appears unwashed, square-faced, pock-marked with scars left by falling coal; his speech bristles with curses, he is coarse and cheeky, and may easily come off as callous and useless, brusque and heartless. But eat a bushel of salt with him - nay, a loaf of bread, and you will realize how laughably mistaken you were. When the time comes to work, he works relentlessly. When a colleague must be saved from death, he does not hesitate to walk into danger. The Silesian miner, along with his comrade the steelworker, is one of the most valuable members of Polish society." The Gliwice Technical Equipment Plant is famous world-wide as a "statue factory". The company custom-makes sculptures of national heroes for customers all around the globe. Piotr Dziadecki and Andrzej Dynak are artistic molding operators. They are working on figures of Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Wincenty Witos. One hundred years ago, the county department in Katowice granted the Georg von Giesche's Erben company permission to settle the land surrounding the Giesche mine. Thus was born the unique and one of a kind Nikiszowiec, a working class neighborhood built with red bricks. The atmospheric building complex is regarded as an architectural treasure. The historical familok houses are a popular backdrop for wedding photos. A renaissance is underway in Nikiszowiec. Frustrated with the lack of progress, the locals have decided to take matters into their own hands. With no assistance from the city, the citizens have been holding fundraisers for a camera system intended to keep vandals at bay. The neighborhood is applying for the status of historical monument, a prestigious title that guarantees free promotion and funding from the Ministry of Culture, and draws tourists. In the photo: Stefan Maturski, a retired miner from the Wieczorek mine, rides a rickshaw of his own design through the streets of Nikiszowiec. His first passenger is Nikiszowiec denizen Ewelina Soska. They are accompanied by a local superhero known as Metan, who shows up whenever something important is going on. There are countless mine openings in the ground beneath Bytom. The neighborhoods of Miechowice, Karb, Rozbark, Sucha Góra, and the city center are most at risk for sudden ground subsidence. In parts of Karb, the ground has subsided by 21 meters! The voids are quickly filled by groundwater and rainwater. In the photo: Boys fish in the pond at Cechowa Street in Karb, on the ruins of a former workshop. On one May Sunday, girls in long, white dresses and boys in suits could be seen walking through this mining neighborhood in Bobrek, Bytom. First Communion was taking place at the Holy Family parish. Many households held family receptions. Wiktoria Matuszewska poses for a commemorative photo near the familok house she lives in with her parents. Her cousin mimics the photographer, using a brick for a camera. The cokery in the Bytom neighborhood of Bobrek was once a part of Huta Bobrek. In the early 70s, the steel mill operated eight open hearth furnaces and three blast furnaces. The mill was already deemed unprofitable in the People's Republic era, and no further modernization efforts were undertaken. In 1994, the mill's debts surpassed its value, and the company went bankrupt. It was sold one year later. The plant no longer manufactures steel, but its cokery, founded in 1856, is still operating.
A Way of the Cross that winds through the streets of Nikiszowiec is a new tradition in the neighborhood. It was introduced a few years ago by Father Zygmunt Klim, the parish pastor. The procession of faithful carrying the cross along the streets of one of Silesia's most beautiful neighborhoods is an impressive sight. Corpus Christi in Lipiny. After morning mass, a celebratory procession emerges onto the streets. It opens with color guards representing miners, steelworkers, allotment gardeners, and many other groups. Next come the men, and then the altar boys. They are followed by girls carrying lilies, then by girls who celebrated their First Communion the same year, strewing flowers from a large basket. Then come little children, who scatter rose petals in the path of the pastor, who carries the monstrance, while the priests follow him under a baldachin. The pastor wears a chasuble, the parish priests - white suprlices. The baldachin is carried by distinguished men in the parish. The fun starts after the procession has passed: children throw the flower petals up in the air watch them fall like gentle, colorful raindrops. Back to current issue