The Vacuum Cleaner

 © The Promised City, photo: Martin Wälde

Poland is undergoing an involuntary centralisation, and Warsaw is beginning to resemble a giant vacuum cleaner that sucks in people, ideas and entire institutions. Ten years ago, only one of three opinion-forming weeklies was published in Warsaw: Polityka. Since then, the other two moved to the capital, Wprost from Poznan, and Przekrój from Cracow. In 2001, the head office of their new competitor, the Polish edition of Newsweek, was opened – in Warsaw. The capital is also home to head offices of all national daily newspapers and all national television stations. The process has gathered speed and is now difficult to guide. In other large towns, this vacuum cleaner capital is regarded with both loathing and admiration. Those towns which are developing vigorously but are sentenced to the second tier (chiefly Kraków/ Cracow and Poznań), abhor it; it is most greatly admired by those who are not doing too well themselves.

“When I am in Cracow, I know I am in Cracow, when I am in Wroclaw, I know I am in Wroclaw; when I am in Warsaw, I just know I am in a city”, is the reflection of the science fiction writer Jacek Dukaj (himself a citizen of Tarnow). “Warsaw is our City, in the sense that New York […] is the City of North America, and Hong Kong, and increasingly Shanghai as well, are the Cities of East Asia. Saying the city, we think Warsaw; saying Warsaw, we think the city. At least I do”. ²