Bunkers. Missile silos. Forts. Three different underground (and aboveground) manifestations of the fear and violence pervading Western countries.
Krakow provided two examples…the underground bunker forming a large part of one of the two museums of Nova Huta, and the display of forts ringing Krakow built by the Austrians during their occupation.
Bunkers are always eerie places I think, bare white walls, industrial fittings. God, the thought of sitting in them, crouched and shaking. The thought of sirens and tremors in the earth and the trickling fall of gravel and the floating of cloudy dust from somewhere. The flicker of lights. I know this fear comes from films, but also I think from the fear we perhaps still carry around with us at all times however deeply buried that nuclear threats are still real, even though we have the luxury of living in places at war with countries far away. They are the ones suffering the bombings, not us and we wouldn’t know what to do if bombs found us here. Though sometimes they find their way.
All of these things come to mind, these are eerie places.
Part of Nova Huta’s model design incorporated bunkers, it should have been bunkers everywhere for everyone. Simultaneously reassuring that thought and care has gone into providing for the safety of workers (where else are workers cared for?), and terrifying that this should be considered necessary. This is the map of shelters provided here:
Yet as the display states, these were underfunded and not well maintained. They could not have withstood nuclear attack, many could not have withstood a direct hit, and they only had enough supplies to keep people underground for three days. They became outdated before they were even built.
More plans, I love plans, even for this:
There were plans for training, for emergency response.
Gas masks though — the eeriest of all somehow. Poison gas being one of the more horrible things human beings have invented, a way to pollute the air, a way to pollute what gives us life so directly:
This all jumbled up in strangely fascinating rooms with old technology.
They did have a robot on the way out though…
This connects in my mind to the Titan Missile Museum, the WWII Western Approaches command centre in Liverpool.
It also connects to another tourist attraction — a much more popular one — the Kościuszko Mound. A monument to Polish hero of the American and Polish independence movements (and he lived in Bristol as well, I have seen the plaque). The mound contains dirt from Poland and America and is built within the confines of one of the ring of forts built by the Austro-Hungarian empire around the city while they occupied it.
The view back towards Krakow:
A map, if you will, of the mad flurry of military building:
A description of the ways the landscape was altered to confuse and kill the enemy. Primarily, ironically somehow, through the planting of trees:
The precise, almost beautiful geometries of fort design:
I did take us a while to find our way out of this fort. It did seem terrible human beings should spend so much time, intellect and energy on more ways to fight and to kill.
More posts on Poland: