Miedzianka/Kupferberg. Memory of the town

Miedzianka/Kupferberg. Memory of the town

2017

Winner of Asymptote Journal’s 2016 Close Approximations Translation Contest and Shortlisted for the Ryszard Kapuscinski Prize, Filip Springer’s History of a Disappearance is a fascinating true story of a small mining town in the southwest of Poland – Miedzianka that, after seven centuries of history, disappeared.

Lying at the crucible of Central Europe, the Silesian village of Kupferberg suffered the violence of the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, and World War I. After Stalin’s post-World War II redrawing of Poland’s borders, Kupferberg became Miedzianka, a town settled by displaced people from all over Poland and a new center of the Eastern Bloc’s uranium-mining industry. Decades of neglect and environmental degradation led to the town being declared uninhabitable, and the population was evacuated. Today, it exists only in ruins, with barely a hundred people living on the unstable ground above its collapsing mines.

In this work of unsparing and insightful reportage, renowned journalist, photographer, and architecture critic Filip Springer rediscovers this small town’s fascinating history. Digging beyond the village’s mythic foundations and the great wars and world leaders that shaped it, Springer catalogs the lost human elements: the long-departed tailor and deceased shopkeeper; the parties, now silenced, that used to fill the streets with shouts and laughter; and the once-beautiful cemetery, with gravestones upended by tractors and human bones scattered by dogs. In Miedzianka, Springer sees a microcosm of European history, and a powerful narrative of how the ghosts of the past continue to haunt us in the present.

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2011

Miedzianka: Historia znikania [Miedzianka: Story of Disappearing] published by Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2011

Coppferberge, Kopferberg, Kupferberg, and later Miedzianka. A town; and in the town – a church, bakery, pharmacist’s, inn, brewery, paper-mill, forge and hairdresser’s. There were weddings there, children were born, somebody died. Supposedly, the town was cursed as at some point, a man murdered his own brother. And two crosses were put up beside the road: one of them read: ”Memento”, so the tragedy would not go forgotten. ”History has never really arrived here; more adequately, it just kept wandering about the neighbourhood”, writes Filip Springer in his debut book about the town which used to exist but does not anymore. The process of disappearing started with a cherry tree, devoured one time by a crack in the ground; the tree still had fruit on its top branches. Houses, tombs, started to sink deeper and deeper into the ground. People would vanish into thin air. Girls played with crystals from church chandeliers and boys reached into old, derelict graves to take out old skulls buried long before. What made the town, the seven-centuries-old town, cease to exist? Are the damages resulting from Uranium excavations conducted by the Russians between 1948 and 1952 to blame? Or, maybe, the underlying cause was the Evil Woman mentioned by the one-time Miedzianka inhabitants who fled the town? This polyphonic story of Miedzianka does not provide answers for all posed questions but the memory of the town has been preserved.

Filip Springer (b. 1982 in Poznań) is a photographer and journalist, whose works are published in all-Poland magazines such as ”Polityka” weekly. In 2010, he received a grant awarded by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and in 2012, he was included in the ”Młoda Polska” (”Young Poland”) grant programme of the National Cultural Centre. Filip Springer co-created a project under the name “Ill – Bred” (”Źle Urodzone”), dedicated to documenting historic buildings of the post-war Modernist era in Poland and presenting them to broad audiences; in March 2012, a book covering this issue was published by Karakter. ”Miedzianka: Story of Disappearing” (”Miedzianka. Historia znikania”) is Filip Spinger’s début in the field of literature.

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References:

http://www.europenowjournal.org/2017/04/03/history-of-a-disappearance-the-forgotten-story-of-a-polish-town-by-filip-springer/

http://www.kulturalna.warszawa.pl/kapuscinski,6,1776.html?locale=en_GB

http://wrzenie.pl/reportaz/451-miedzianka-wersja-angielska-history-of-a-disappearance.html

 

 

The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Burren is a limestone plateau in north County Clare, Ireland, dominated by karst landscape. It measures at least 250 square kilometers. This extraordinary region is rich in natural and cultural attractions. Traveling via the Wild Atlantic Way, along the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean, through the limestone desert interspersed with the green hills and valleys, you have the impression of traveling in time and space. In a moment you are back to the Neolithic Era, in the other you are crossing the gate to the world of fantasy full of Little People, Feries and other amazing creatures well known from the J.R.R. Tolkien works.

The name Burren comes from the Gaelic and means a rocky place. Historically, the name referred to the Barony of Burren situated in north-west County Clare. Geographically, the name has a wider meaning. The area lies between Galway Bay on the north, the Atlantic coast on the west and a line drawn through Doolin, Kilfenora, Gort and Kinvara. However, outside this area you can also find the limestone features, but not as frequently and concentrated.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

The Burren is the youngest landscape in Europe and has suffered intense glaciation. The last one occurred about 10 000 years ago. You can find here almost all typical limestone landforms, like underground rivers, swallow holes, glacial erratics, caves, clints, grykes and closed depressions. The limestone is an organic sedimentary rock laid down millions of years ago in a shallow warm sea, it is the result of marine plants and animals dying and accumulating in horizontal beds on the sea floor.

The first people to arrive in the Burren were hunters and fishermen who moved into animal husbandry with the keeping of cattle, sheep and goats. From the results of research and archaeological excavations a lot of information has been gathered about the life and death of these early settlers. There are numerous monuments and tombs dated to the Neolithic Era from, ca. 4000 – 3000 BC. The tombs of the first farmers, widely known as megaliths, are impressive monuments over the graves of their dead.

Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott
Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott

The Burren is also well known for the remains of over twenty churches constructed between the 6th and 12th centuries. These are evidences of the spread of Christianity in this region and traces of stay of the early Irish missionaries, like St. Colman and St. Cronan, who laboured in this remote area. Most of these churches are of architectural interest and in most cases their patrons and founders being known and revered.

The Corcomroe Abbey is one of these remains, sited among the grey hills and valleys of the Burren. It is best known for its lonely situation. The abbey acquired the name of Sancta Maria de Petra Fertili (St. Mary of the Fertile Rock) which reflects the fertile nature of the Burren lands. It has been built in the 12th century and used by the Cistercian community for the next 400 years.

The Corcomroe Abbey

In a countryside like the County Clare, isolated from the rest of the country by the river Shannon, with so many visible remains of the past and an extraordinary landscape that stimulates imagination, the folklore was rich and survived over the centuries maintained by the Gaelic language. It has left many material and immaterial traces in the landscape and in the literature.

Recently it turned out that the magical landscape of the Burren may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to bring to life the Middle-earth – the central continent of the Earth in Tolkien’s imagined mythological past. The term is equivalent to the term Miðgarðr from Norse mythology, describing the human-inhabited world. In ancient Germanic mythology, the world of Men is known by several names, such as Midgard, Middenheim, Manaheim, and Middengeard. The Old English word middangeard descends from an earlier Germanic word, transliterated to modern English as Midgard.

Doolin Fertile Stone
Doolin Fertile Stone

Tolkien’s world famous works, like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, take place entirely in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien worked as an external examiner to National University Galway in the 40s and 50s of the XX century. Galway, the most central port on the West Coast in the sheltered eastern corner of Galway Bay, located between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south, was a great starting point for exploring the surrounding area.

It is said by the locals that Tolkien would often take trips to the lunar-like landscape of the Burren. When you consider that Tolkien was visiting the Burren around the same time that he was writing The Lord of The Rings, it is easy to see how the stark beauty of this region might have inspired him. The landscape here is certainly unusual, and for a fantasy author such as Tolkien it must have been magnetic.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

Amongst the craggy fissures and creeping woods of the Burren there is a cave called Pol na Gollum (Hole of Gollum). The Gollum’s character is essential to the entire plot of The Lord of The Rings. Did Tolkien get the name for this miserable creature from this cave? Furthermore, Gollum in The Lord of The Rings had a distinctive gurgling cough, and at the mouth of this cave the chirps and calls of rock doves echo and transform into a similar guttural sound.

Thanks to Peter Curtin, the owner of The Roadside Tavern pub in County Clare and a member of The Burren Society Tolkien Symposium, it has been accepted that one of the most iconic authors of the fantasy literature – J.R.R. Tolkien, was influenced by the magic of the incredible place of the Burren while writing his most famous work.

Pauline Baynes's copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings
Pauline Baynes’s copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings

Gallery

Reference:

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/places/the_burren/burren_karst.htm

http://www.ireland.com/en-gb/what-is-available/attractions-built-heritage/historic-ireland/articles/burren-and-tolkien/

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/the-little-people

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/fairy-and-folk-tales

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-earth#Etymology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galway_Bay

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3287440/Show-way-Mordor-Unique-hand-drawn-map-Middle-Earth-gives-rare-insight-Tolkien-s-mind.html

https://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_colbeck_1905.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/australia-books-blog/2016/sep/26/hannah-kent-the-good-people-dives-into-an-irish-world-of-faith-and-fantasy