Crime : Poland – Adam Kowalski


Jeremy comes to Bytom on 15th of May.  We meet in the office of Silesian Dance Theatre in order to create a work schedule for the entire next week that Jeremy is going to spend in the Silesia area making a film about coal thieves.  Jeremy chooses the subject out of the wide range of “criminal” subjects that he received earlier via email: a man impersonating a grandson assails elderly ladies a tenement house crushes down in the centre of the town, as usually the guilty are not found; an elderly man gets sprinkled with an inflammable substance and set on fire on a commuter train station; another elderly man is being hit to death on a tram station.  Each of the subjects appeared in the criminal chronicles, shattering the public opinions for a while, at least until another horrific event happened, curdling the blood of the citizens of Upper Silesia Region.  Jeremy chooses coal theft.  This is nothing like an “event”, a “happening” or an “incident.”  Coal stealing  is a process, a long criminal story with individual and collective characters, with the dramaturgy, the turning points and the climate resembling that of the “noir” films, “Germinal” or early Goddard.  At least this it what it seems to be the moment before the “field work.”

The next day we set off on the borrowed bikes.  At the first steeper slope, which in the Upper Selesia is many, the chain breaks on Jeremy’s bike.  Luckily it was a momentary problem and we quickly fix the vehicle.  We cycle to Bobrek – the most devastated and morally neglected part of Bytom.  The neighborhood didn’t enjoy a fine reputation even at the time when its residents still worked in the coal mine and in the ironworks “Bobrek.”  Now when the coal mine was closed down and the number of workers in the ironworks was dramatically reduced, Bobrek declined even more.  It can be seen at each step, you read it on buildings’ façades and people’s faces.  We will be coming back here many times.  Bobrek is known for illegal work, oftentimes bordering or actually being a criminal activity: stealing coal, iron, colored metals.  For now I want Jeremy to see the place, which represents the times when coal-mining in Bobrek was not regarded cursed.  We take a forest path towards the  ruins of the coal mine Bobrek.  We admire the exuberance of the post-industrial wildlife.  For Jeremy this occurs to be reminiscence from his hometown Detroit.  We stroll around piles of debris, naked, demolished walls overgrown with weeds.  Jeremy turns on his camera.  He shoots the landscape – vast area that underwent radical changes.  I tell him stories about the mining, tradition, identity, demonology and stereotypes hoping to provide him with some knowledge of the cultural context of the events he wants to talk about in his film.

to be cont…


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