In my secret life

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The library of Krasińscy in Warsaw has an interesting, sad and somehow ghostly story. Now a shadow of its former self, the imperial-style building with paint coming off the walls, stays mostly empty and locked up. Until the end of September, however, there is music and a chance to enjoy a walk around this extraordinary place.

Quick history recap: The library of Krasińscy was founded by count Wincenty Krasinski in mid 19th century. Count’s dream was to preserve his family’s collection of books, art and documents, while making them avilable to the public (Wincent was, it seems, a rather idealistic kind of guy for his time). The current building, on Okólnik Street, was built just before WW I by Wincenty’s heir, Edward. And this is pretty much when the happy times end for the library.

During WW II it was taken over by the Natzis, who stored some of the most valuable collections from major Warsaw libraries there. And then proceeded to burn the entire thing up in 1944, as part of their revenge for the Warsaw Uprising.

The post-war history of the library has been shared by many pre-war buildings in Warsaw. Some of the heirs to the building passed the administrative duties on to a fundation, but apparently not all. There’s few dozen of them, and they are hence incapable of making any decision. The bulding stands empty and decays. So far I wasn’t able to locate the land register number for the library so the current legal status remains a bit of a mistery.

Life periodically bursts into the old building, in form of squaters, ad hoc parties and art projects. Recently it has been taken over by Association “Smolna” and Musical Quarterly. Untill the end of September, the grand hallway of the library is a venue where both classical musicians from Warsaw’s Music Academy, and popular music folks from jazz to metal, can “practice” in front of an audience (the project is called Practice Room). Concerts start daily at 5 p.m. and are free to attend.

With a basic grasp of Polish you can check the program on Practice Room’s facebook. But we suggest you arrive there before 5 p.m. have a walk around the building, then take a place in the audience and wait. It’s best to keep it a bit of a secret.


[h6]All photos by Maja Krynska. Waiver for publishing under CC can be granted upon request.[/h6]

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