A journalist, co-author of “Gejdar” and “Pan od seksu”, mother of two sons. She has recently published her first novel “Plac Konstytucji” in the Wielka Litera Publishing House. We have visited her apartment. Where? You are right – at Konstytucji Square where she has been living for 10 years now.
How is life here? At first glance, Konstytucji Square seems to be a vast concrete desert.
– It is a specific place to live. It’s just a stone’s throw away from Ujazdowski Park. Everything is at walking distance. However, it’s not a quiet, peaceful place. You have to be an enthusiast of such urban vibes. For me, above all, it is important that under this concrete crust you can feel the history. People who still live here remember times when the Marszałkowska Housing District (MDM) was being built.
So you haven’t found yourself here by accident?
– It was a conscious decision. I remember even when I first visited Konstytucji Square. I am a Cracovian and whenever I was in Warsaw I used to head directly to…
Patisserie? For a glass of wine?
– Yes, however, I used to look for it in the Old Town. I remember that feeling when I accidentally set foot at Konstytucji Square. I was taken aback by the scale of this architectural concept.
And you liked it, didn’t you. You are simply an urban girl! And how about your kids?
– They are also fond of this place. Even though it’s not very child-friendly. We basically don’t have a yard, and it is forbidden to skate in the arcades. Some time ago we went to visit the Praga Warsaw Museum, we got off the metro in Targowa Street and the neighbourhood simply enraptured us. I said that I could live there. And our son Felek, 7 years old, answered: “What? There isn’t even Green Coffee here!”
A mama’s boy!
– Exactly. For a journalist, Konstytucji Square is great because this place is full of captivating stories. When I used to go to Batida, the lady behind the counter told me she had been working for ages at the same place even in former times of Hortex. A local street florist says she has been living here since the beginning of 1952.
In your book, we can clearly notice that the square has always been a stage for various disputes. Your heroes discuss if they should expel Jews from the country in 1968 or stand up for them, whether they should support a strike of students or defend the old order; take part in the Rainbow March, or throw paving stones at policemen on the 11th of November.
– It is mostly the book about contemporary Poland. It all happened by itself. It was a place of a protest after shutting down “Po prostu” magazine. When the martial law broke out, ZOMO (Motorized Reserves of the Citizens’ Militia) gathered here. During the birth of capitalism in the 90s, we could witness the revival of the Vietnamese food booths here. And the 11th of November 2011, was a really big experience for me. I felt almost like on war.
In your novel, there is a strong juxtaposition of a hooligan who takes part in this march and a girl who is forced to give birth at home because she cannot go out.
– There was no way you could go out, my son didn’t return from his grandparents that day. Having seen what was going on outside I realized that the heroes of my book can’t be regular people like us, with similar views, participating in the Colorful Independent.
This dispute which opens up your book whether to keep the rest of old Warsaw or built it from scratch seems to be a hot topic.
– One of my characters lived in a tenement house which survived the war and was demolished in April 1952. In July that year, they planned to open Konstytucji Square.
And how about you, which side would you support?
– Many people ask me about it. I guess, back then I’d be just thrilled by the concept of rebuilding Warsaw. But I pity of course all those beautiful tenement houses which could have managed to survive to these days. I am happy that the maximum plan, a vast social-realistic avenue from Defilad Square to Uni Lubelskiej Square, was not put into practice because of a lack of sufficient funds.
If you contrast these two visions you can also demonstrate the architectural and social absurdity of this square. In the next volume will your heroes argue about whether there should be a parking lot or a square?
– Indeed it seems to be a more and more emotional issue. Today the square has no clear definition or identity. It has lost its elegance (of course in the Eastern-European sense), since the 90s. It has in fact never recovered and has lost its huge potential.
And I am grateful that one of the characters is extremely furious that she cannot cross the square at the single green light. Maybe we will be able to do something about it.
interview by Agnieszka Kowalska
photographs: Filip Klimaszewski