House party on Wierobieja Street
The participants went back a good few decades. First, due to the place – this is a historic building, the headquarters of the legendary “Chłopska”. Secondly, due to the decor – the interior of the former store turned into a cozy living room decorated with furniture from the communist era. And finally, due to the memories of Wierobieja Street, which flowed both from the screen and from the audience.
This event is proof that everything the people associated with the Metamorphosis Association and the informal group called Action Hajnówka take on turns to gold. They are the organizers of ” House party on Wierobieja Street- moving pictures and nostalgic notes in Chłopska”. Recall that this is another part of the so-called neighborhood initiatives carried out under the project “Hajnówka ReNewal – Green Transformation”. In the summer, the first part was held, the 2nd Day of Wierobieja Street, which turned out to be the event of the season and an increasingly recognizable brand. This event gathered crowds (in both editions), confirming how much Hajnówka residents need such meetings and how interested they are in local history.
On Saturday evening (December 2, 2023), the highlight of the program was Wierobieja Street, a historical place in Hajnówka. Specifically, a historic building called “Chłopska”. It all started with the reportage “Stories about Wierobieja Street”, the premiere of which was to take place that day.
– We wanted to offer residents something more than just a movie screening. We were looking for a place that would allow them to feel the atmosphere of the old days. Chłopska Street came up in our conversations from the beginning. Finally, we walked back and forth along the street and concluded: "Yes, this is a good place. We are glad that the owner trusted us and made the premises available..
This is how the space appeared. It remained to arrange it properly. Here, too, people helped. The organizers posted an announcement on social media that they wanted to rent furniture from the communist era. In particular, armchairs and lamps were needed. The appeal did not go unanswered. More than ten people responded to the application, and in addition to armchairs and lamps, the organizers also received sofas, carpets and various gadgets from the era. They managed to furnish an atmospheric living room, which those entering were quoted with the words: “Gosh, how cozy.”
Returning to the report on Wierobieja Street. Work on it began back in the summer. At that time the creators, namely Andrzej Szypulski, a well-known documentary filmmaker and photographer in the city, were looking for interviewees. The material included recollections of people who had lived here as children, or had run businesses. They talked about what the street looked like, who lived and ran businesses on it. Some of the memories date back to the occupation.
– Documentary films are very difficult to make and I regretted very much that I agreed. It seemed like nothing easier - to meet some of the people who lived here. You will see here the memories of six people, although there were more interviewees. Making this film was like putting together 1,000 jigsaw puzzles when you don't know what the picture looks like. I feel that this is an incomplete picture, but as a filmmaker I am not objective. However, the thing with a documentary film is that its value often increases years later. It's like a good wine or an old car. The memories recorded here will remain even when the protagonists are no longer with us.
“Every generation has its own world and its own five minutes, even on this street,” said one of the report’s characters. The film was an attempt to transport residents to a world that no longer exists. However, there are no dates or chronological sequence in the material. Once we go back to the times of the German occupation, at other times to the glory years of the “Hajnowianka”, which operated after the war. Listening to the stories of the characters, we imagine the noise of the iron wheels of the horse-drawn carts, with which farmers from neighboring villages used to come to market on Wednesday. We see the wooden, 16-step staircase without a treatment, which the residents of one of the houses climbed several times during the day, carrying buckets of water and coal. We imagine the happy faces of children skating down the middle of the street in winter, or festively dressed families posing for a photo at Andrzejewski’s photo shop. We learn who had the first car on Wierobieja and where the first neon sign in Hajnówka was lit.
Once it is sad, once it is cheerful. It’s sad when we move to the time of occupation, to a house on the corner of Wierobieja and Kosidłów (preserved in good condition). A girl living there sees a young man walking down the street through the window. He is hit by a Gestapo officer coming from across the street for not taking off his cap at him. A cheerful story is told about “Hajnowanka” and the waiter – Mr. Miecio. When one ordered a bottle of vodka, he always brought two. So as not to walk twice, as he used to say. Mr. Mieciu was a man of legend – a towel on his shoulder, “please kindly”, “what can I serve”. In “Hajnowianka” it was expensive, but for that “culture first class”. ‘Chłopska’ was not the first better store, either. “It was a market like I don’t know what. It was Leroy, Ikea, there was everything,” says one of the reporters. – tells one of the characters in the report.
The report is a real treasure trove of knowledge. Not only about Wierobieja Street, but also about times that have passed away. Who today remembers, for example, the so-called secular baptisms? In communist Poland, the state tried to induce citizens to do it. Instead of a priest, there was an official. Despite various incentives from the authorities, people were not very keen on these baptisms.
The organizers hoped that the film would prompt Hajnówka residents to reminisce. The audience did not disappoint. The question “What memories do you have of Wierobieja Street?” was answered by both old and young.
Fot. Renata Bura
For example, Edward Poniecki, a lover of local history and former journalist for Gazeta Białostocka, told how it was in the 1940s that he first encountered the big screen. It was right on Wierobieja Street, at the back of a tenement house, which is located across from Chłopska Street. The organizers of the screening were Red Army soldiers. And on the screen was Lyubov Orlova herself in the film “The World Laughs.”
– This street is still alive. It is here that there is a tiny cafe where a lot of people used to gather to play jam sessions.
During the event there was no shortage of anecdotes about the street’s patron, Father Ignacy Wierobiej. He was a priest extremely well-liked and respected in Hajnówka. The story was told of how he rebuilt a burned-out church during the difficult communist times – reportedly, he erected a new one around the foundations of the old one.
During the homecoming, a video of the Second Day of Wierobieja Street was also shown. It showed, among other things, what the preparations for the event looked like “from behind the scenes,” and viewers could see how much work the organizers had put into preparing the event. Those who were not at the house party will soon have the opportunity to watch both videos. We will publish them on the project website and the Facebook page of the city hall.
It is valuable that the House party on Wierobieja Street brought generations together. Both younger and older people came. The atmosphere was relaxed, the participants were not afraid to speak up. Some not only gave beautiful thank-you speeches, but also shared their artwork, like the elderly elegant lady who introduced herself as Grandma Franciszka.
– I am proud of our wonderful young people, that they want to do so many good things. I'm not a poet, but I would like to read my poem.
The poem went like this:
Our Hajnówka is a hole.
And only through good friendships with Bialowieza
A lot of guests pass (not come) through it every year.
In order for these guests to stay in Hajnówka
It is necessary for us to build
Summer gardens, winter palaces,
Golf courses, snowboard hills
A reservoir, an indoor swimming pool, an indoor ice rink
A small airport is also useful.
Bowling halls, playing fields,
Restaurants, hotels, roadside motels.
This is an infrastructure that does not bore
And can keep people in Hajnówka.
And also plant flowers everywhere
from this Hajnówka will become more beautiful.
You can also get the status of a health resort
and build sanatoria in the wilderness charms.
Finally, I ask a question, and when I ask I don’t err.
Where to get the money for all this?
The end of the piece came years later and is very optimistic:
And then there’s the punchline!
Since writing this poem, 10 years have passed.
Admit it to yourselves that in Hajnówka,
for the better, a lot has changed.
To make it even more optimistic, we pass on the information that the Day of Wierobieja Street will continue. The city authorities will provide partial funding.
– There is acceptance and a public need for this to happen. Residents of other streets, for example, Judzianka or Górna Street, which is also one of the oldest streets in the city, ask when there will be a holiday at their place. I would like to remind you that the Day of Wierobieja Street is just one element of the Norwegian project, which is very ambitious and requires the involvement of residents. And it is happening.
And at the end there was a concert. Young and talented musicians, whose group adopted the working name “Kasia’s Band”. The band was formed just before the Sound Vernissage (this is also an undertaking under the project “Hajnówka ReNewal – Green Transformation”). It was then that the joint story of vocalist Kasia Drużba and musicians Natalia Prokopiuk (co-organizer of the Vernissage of Sound), Dawid Ruta and Tomasz Ginszta began to form. Hajnowians will surely hear about these young people again.