In Kraków, at least in its historical centre, nothing much has changed since the interwar period. These old photographs have captured the everyday life of its inhabitants, unchanged through the years.
We can go shopping, stop by a café, rest under the shadow of Planty or on the beach near the Wawel, and take part in patriotic celebrations with them. We can also see a Kraków that no longer exists, meaning the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. Although the buildings of the district have survived and we can still see the same synagogues and cemeteries, the heart of the district is forever gone with the fifty thousand Jews who were killed during the war. Only photographs remain of the living, taken by Stanisław Kolowca, Stanisław Mucha and Adam Karaś, amongst others.
Autumn 1927 at Planty
On the right is the a façade of the Kraków Society of Friends of Fine Arts' headquarters at Szczepański Square, known as the Palace of Art. The building was designed by Franciszek Mączyński and kept in the Vienna Secession style. Jacek Malczewski created the frieze enclosing the building.
The Bishop’s Palace in Kraków
The Bishop’s Palace is located at 3 Franciszkańska Street. It is traditionally the residence of Kraków's bishops. Ambroży Grabowski wrote in 1822 in Historical Description of Kraków and its Surroundings (Historyczny opis miasta Krakowa i jego okolic):
Memory of the first establisher of this building fades into the distant ages of the past. The shape of the building tells us that the wealthy bishops of the city enlarged and enriched the construction which survived all misfortunes and incursions that the city of Kraków experienced over the ages.
However, the Bishop’s Palace did not survive the great fire of 1850. Between 1865 and 1884 the building was thoroughly renovated.
Starowiślna Street was, along with Krakowska, one of two streets that connected Kraków with Podgórze. However, it happened not earlier than in 1913 when the so-called third bridge was built on Wisła river. The street was built in the place of a medieval road that lay in the Przed Nową Bramą suburbs and ended up by an oxbow lake on the Wisła. After the oxbow lake was buried in the 19th century, the street was lengthened to Kazimierz and later to the main course of the river. It became one of the main streets in the city and has stayed that way until today.
An acrobat on a bike
In this photograph from the 1930s, a Światowid photo reporter managed to catch an acrobat on a bike on Sienna Street. It was how the Centra First Poznańska Factory of Elements and Batteries advertised its products.
Works at Planty
Workers placing asphalt at Planty alongside Basztowa Road. In the background between the trees a fragment of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre’s headquarters is visible. Nowadays, there is an underground path to Kraków Główny train station on this spot. This photograph was taken in May 1935.
The Izaak Synagogue
The Izaak Synagogue and the small Mizrachi house of prayer at Kupa street. The Izaak Synagogue is the biggest temple in Kraków. It was built in the 1730s and 40s and funded by Isaac Jakubowicz, one of the richest bankers in Kraków. The Mizrachi Synagogue was built in 1924 at the initiative of the Mizrachi Zionist-orthodox movement.
The Most Beautiful Corner of Kazimierz
This part of Meiselsa street is one of the most colourful corners of Kazimierz. The one-story building visible in the background no longer exists. We can also notice tenements on Krakowska Street. This photograph was taken in 1935.
In the picture from 1933 we see Zakopane café and restaurant, which has been open since 1826 and is now one of the oldest and most popular in Kraków. The café was visited by actors of the neighbouring Juliusz Słowacki Theatre and journalists from Czas. In 1935 the name was changed to Zakopianka and the café-restaurant still operates under this name today.
The Birthplace of Aviation
Kraków was the birthplace of aviation on Polish lands. In 1912 in Rakowice the first Polish airport (at the time an army airport) was established. In July 1923 a civil airport was built nearby. In this photograph from 1925 we can see the Hanriot H19 trainer plane created by the Polish aerospace manufacturer Samolot (full name: Wielkopolska Wytwórnia Samolotów) which was presented at an exhibit inside the Barbican.
In front of the Barbican
In 1925 a photo reporter of Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny captured this unusual scene right in front of the Barbican. Two young men are proudly showing off a vehicle – probably hand-made – which combines features of a bike and a handcar.
Author: Janusz R. Kowalczyk, April 2014, tranlsated by Antoni Wiśniewski, March 2016
Prewar Kraków. The Most Beautiful Photographs
RM, Warsaw 2013
Size: 210 x 260 mm
Number of pages: 120