History of Porcelain Street in Katowice

Political systems come and go, national borders change, but porcelain has been here for nearly a century. Though nowadays little more than a backdrop to a flourishing business, it is a noble backdrop all the same.

Porcelain Street in Katowice is lined with shop floors, warehouse stores and workshops. It ends with a huge compound of a former factory that gave its name to the street. Only four years ago it lay in ruins. Its bricks, once red, were coated in black, while broken window panes gave a fright to anyone who ventured into these parts. Today, most of the Porcelain Factory buildings have been restored to their former glory, with the compound being home to a small town of roughly thirty companies that offer new jobs. These include a hairdresser’s, a dentist’s, beauty salons, a bistro, two galleries, and advertising agencies. The imposing edifice of a former sorting plant provides a venue for concerts. And what about porcelain? Its production continues, albeit on a much smaller scale. Marketed as Porcelana Bogucice, it evokes the story of this place, once nicknamed “the white pit.”
Women’s day at the factory
The story goes back to the 1920s, when businessman Ryszard Czuday began conversion of a former animal feed factory. The company’s shareholder was Giesche SA, whoso logo was emblazoned on the first coffee and dinner sets, made in 1925. Later on, a capital injection from the American corporation Harriman made it possible to modernize the factory, which represented Poland at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. During the war, the company continued production under a German management. In communist Poland the plant was nationalized, and most of its traditional designs and models destroyed. “Eighteen hundred people worked here in the 1960s,” says Aleksandra Kandzia-Ulrych, vice president of the Giesche Foundation, which is in charge of the industrial grounds today. “With ninety percent of the staff being women, Women’s Day celebrations were a big thing around here. To mark it, theatre performances and concerts were held in a vast ballroom that boasted a stage. The factory had plenty of amenities for women, such as special rooms where pregnant workers could take a rest.”
Problems began in the 1990s, as the behemoth of a company was struggling to make it through economic transformation. Production was suspended for a time, then resumed following privatization, but on a greatly reduced scale. Today, the ceramics maker is just one of the tenants in the Porcelain Factory. It sources porcelain from other manufacturers to decorate and burn patterns into it. “We do want porcelain to form part of the background, but our primary objective is to build an industrial and technology park,” explains Aleksandra Kandzia-Ulrych. “It’s not only business that we are after – we plan to set up an entire service hub.”
Three thousand in one evening
The Porcelain Factory may be located at a major crossroads, but it’s not easy to reach for someone without a car, so the 940 public bus service has recently been launched to link it with Katowice’s bus terminal. “The buses plying this route were empty at first, as people commuting to work had got used to giving each other a lift. Since then the service has gained in popularity, with the revitalized Porcelain Factory giving work to more and more people. Additional buses are also provided to accommodate weekend events,” the Giesche Foundation vice president notes with satisfaction. As she explains, the city is keen to support new projects seeing this place flourish. She cites the municipal permission to tidy up a grove near the factory, something the authorities couldn’t afford to pay for themselves.
The Giesche Foundation was launched by people who were willing to revitalize the entire compound, and reinvigorate this urban district. The first visitors toured this place in May 2013, during the Night of Museums. “We just walked out through the gate and were totally overwhelmed by the row of people occupying the whole length of the street. We had nearly three thousand visitors in one day! People would queue for up to two hours to get into the factory. Grandmas would point out to their grandchildren: ‘This is where I worked.’ They were glad this place was open again,” says Aleksandra Kandzia-Ulrych.
The factory is still available for visitors by appointment. A guide will show them around an exhibition chronicling the plant’s history; demonstrate original moulds for making porcelain; invite them to watch as china is being decorated. Additional modelling classes can also be attended. The place is a magnet for fine arts students from Katowice and Wroclaw, who come here for various workshops. The numerous displays and concerts are putting the factory on the cultural map of Katowice.
Autumn, music scores & beboks
Today’s decoration studio consists of only a handful of ladies who practise their elaborate craft by hand. They take ready pieces of white porcelain, cover them with carbon paper, and use a rubber ‘finger’ to smooth away any water or air bubbles. We watch as pieces of the Autumn collection, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, are being made. Once dry, these little beauties make it to the kiln where they are fired until ready for use.
Another marvel are hand-painted sets, notably the music collection, to which new scores by famous Polish composers are added, immortalized on cups and saucers. “This work requires great precision and patience,” stress factory workers. Still brown while being applied, the paint takes on a refined, golden hue once fired in the kiln. The effects are shown off at one of the factory shops. Another collection which has proved very popular is Bebok, named after a legendary folk creature that looks like an imp and was a bogeyman for naughty children in Silesia. “Bebok is about half a metre tall, with hoofs instead of feet, holding a stick to beat brats with it on and on,” reads the blurb, originally written in the Silesian dialect.
It is worth taking a stroll along the History Hallway, where historical photos are on display. Some of them are family pictures of Krystyna Ropka, a former factory worker. They convey a sense of the plant’s heyday. But history has left its traces all over the factory grounds. You can find there original beams with embossed names of mills; a wall featuring slightly blurred communist slogans, such as “Competition as an avenue to socialism.” Political systems come and go, national borders change, but porcelain has been here for nearly a century. Though nowadays little more than a backdrop to a flourishing business, it is a noble backdrop all the same.
Author: Szymon Babuchowski
Source: “Gość Niedzielny”

Polish FM: Foreign policy tasks for 2016 have been completed 100 percent

“All tasks that were assigned to us in the programming documents and that I presented in my annual policy address to the Sejm have been completed,” said Minister Witold Waszczykowski after a meeting with Prime Minister Beata Szydło which was held as part of the MFA’s review.

“The task has been completed 100 percent: despite the crisis in and around Europe, our situation is better,” declared the chief of Polish diplomacy.
Prime Minister Beata Szydło stressed that “2016 was a year of very active policy by the Polish government.” The government’s activities focused, with respect to the “European policy, on restoring Poland’s position in the EU, on the role of the Visegrad Group, currently under Poland’s presidency,” and on “shifting the approach to many issues discussed at the EU level in the direction proposed by Poland.” Regarding such issues as the migration crisis, or the need to change and reform the EU, Prime Minister Szydło highlighted that these are “undoubtedly the successes of Polish diplomacy.” She also said she believes that Poland’s foreign policy in 2017 will be active and focused on strengthening the role of our country in Europe.
The foreign minister commented primarily on security and regional cooperation. “Both our country and the region have been granted a security status equal to that of the western states, the old UE members,” he said. “American troops are coming to Poland, the missile shield is being built. This means that Poland’s security status has been increasingly similar to that of Western European countries,” argued the minister. He also announced that in 2017, Poland would like to see implementation of security decisions that were taken at the NATO summit in Warsaw last year.
Witold Waszczykowski pointed to the need to tackle challenges such as defending the borders against waves of immigrants, and hybrid threats. In this context, he announced that Poland will take an active part in European concepts of the common security and defence policy. “We have just completed important negotiations with Frontex on its status. For years, it has been operating in Poland without any legal or financial framework. Our government started the negotiations and brought them to a conclusion,” added the minister.
The foreign minister also recalled that Poland has set itself the task to enhance integration of the broadly understood region. “We gave a new impetus to the regional cooperation of the Visegrad Group, we set up new instruments of integration,” said Minister Witold Waszczykowski. He pointed out that Poland is working in the Bucharest Nine and the V4+ (meetings of the Visegrad Group countries with selected countries from outside) formats. He recalled that our country also cooperates with China in the 16+1 format. “In Poland, we launched the eastern flank triangle, which includes Poland, Romania and Turkey. At the moment we are preparing for the next meeting of the eastern flank triangle countries in Bucharest,” added the minister. “Our ambition is for the region to function independently within the EU and NATO, rather than being a periphery of Western Europe” said Witold Waszczykowski. “We will continue to seek stabilization of Eastern Europe,” he added. Speaking of regional cooperation, the foreign minister noted that it mainly concerns roads, railways and energy.
“Nor have we been neglecting our friends in the EU,” continued Minister Witold Waszczykowski. “We’ve had many rounds of intergovernmental consultations with such powers as Germany and Great Britain, but also with smaller countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary.” As he explained, the talks focused on major crises that are unfolding within the European Union and around it, and have to do with migration, energy, and climate. The minister pointed out that the year 2017 will be difficult given the situation in Europe. “Different crises that began years ago will persist,” said Witold Waszczykowski. “We are confronted with many wars and crises around Europe. These crises set off waves of migrants.” Moreover, the minister highlighted “the long list of problems within the EU,” pointing in particular to Brexit, the blueprint for the Community’s development, and the future of the currency and the euro area. “The EU must find out what prompted such an important country, a nuclear power, a permanent UN Security Council member, to leave the Union,” said Minister Witold Waszczykowski referring to the UK’s decision to exit the EU. “So we have a catalogue of identified problems that should be shown to Europe,” he underlined.
“While tending to regional problems, we have not neglected Eastern policy,” underscored Minister Waszczykowski, recalling talks with the Ukrainian side, and warmer relations with Belarus. “We have also embraced the ambitious challenge of looking to the wider world, of rebuilding our contacts in China, Korea, the emerging countries,” said the chief of Polish diplomacy.

The minister called attention to the many conversations and consultations he held in 2016 with a view to fulfilling foreign policy tasks. The first weeks of 2017 also abounded in the Polish foreign minister’s trips abroad and meetings in Warsaw. “At the beginning of this year, I was one of the first European politicians to be able to talk to the advisors of then still President-Elect Donald Trump, that is Henry Kissinger and General Michael Flynn. They assured me that Poland is on the right side of the conflict line, and will not be subject to international haggling,” recalled the minister. He also referred to his recent visit to New York, where he participated in an open UN Security Council debate, and his trip to Paris, which hosted discussions on the Middle East crisis and where the minister had a chance to meet French presidential candidates. He recalled his attendance, alongside Federica Mogherini and Jens Stoltenberg, at a World Economic Forum panel in Davos devoted to Europe’s security. “Last Friday I had an interesting conversation with the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, who represents a new government and expresses readiness to settle matters that divide us,” the minister continued.
“We have remembered about the Polish community abroad. During each visit (by Mr President, Madam Prime Minister, and me) we would devote time to talks with the Polish community, besides political talks. We’ve been listening to what Poles have to say,” said Minister Witold Waszczykowski, declaring that intensive cooperation with the Polish community and Poles abroad would continue in 2017.
Furthermore, Witold Waszczykowski announced plans for opening new embassies in Tanzania and Panama, working with the Ministry of Economic Development to expand the network of trade offices, and establishing new consulates, notably in Belfast and Houston, Texas. “A consular hotline will be launched in Warsaw in a few days’ time,” said Witold Waszczykowski, adding that it would be a 24/7 service.
Speaking about changes to the organization of Poland’s foreign service, Minister Waszczykowski mentioned plans to open a Diplomatic Academy, and introduce a new foreign service act which would open up the MFA to experts boasting unique knowledge.
Source: MFA Press Office