In Warsaw the signs of the Second World War are everywhere. A plaque tells you that 510 Poles were executed by Nazis in the place where you buy flowers and cucumbers. Copper outlines on the street remind you each day of the location of the Warsaw Ghetto walls. Another plaque commemorates 450 injured Polish combatants who were burned alive by Nazis in the very room that you work. These memorials are particularly common in Wola, a neighbourhood that saw heavy fighting during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The conflict ended with the death of 200,000 Polish civilians and combatants and the expulsion and imprisonment of 700,000 survivors. Wola was also part of the Warsaw Ghetto, in which a significant portion of the city’s 350,000 Jews were imprisoned and ultimately killed or sent to extermination camps by Nazi Germany. By the time the Soviet army finally entered the city, only six percent of its original 1.3 million inhabitants were left alive. After some time, however, the innumerable memorials to the dead that litter the streets of Warsaw eventually blend into the living fabric of a vibrant European capital. Some days it is possible to forget that you live in one of the most brutalised cities of the Second World War.
September 1, 2016 - Michael Połczyński and Kaitlin Staudt