Workshop in Bobrek

August 14th, 2012
Workshop organized by CSW Kronika and MOPR

In this workshop at Bobrek, which is focused on the participants everyday life, these experiences were approached through drawings, diagrams and discussions: more of a map-making or diagrams, than illustrating memories. It was an open workshop about the transformation of Bytom in past twenty years. The transformation of social, mental, physical, economic and environmental life.

All participants were women, except a eight year old boy, Paweł. It seems that people who organize something in Bobrek, are also mostly women. Most of them seem not to have a regular job. But I did not ask this directly. No-one has an email address, which tells a lot about the difference of life. Bobrek is more of a village, than a suburb, in that sense, that people have strong sense of community. They organize things by themselves, and through this association we worked with MOPR (Miejski Ośrodek Pomocz Rodzinie, Program Aktywności Lokalnej), organized by Aleksandra Bubniak.

They all have lived a long time in Bobrek, some over forty years. They reflect on the decline of this place, where over twenty years ago, 60% of the working people were working in the Bobrek mine or steel factory, and people living in Bobrek had a strong sense of their place and value.

What becomes clear from them, as they tell about the place — for instance the horrible condition of the old culture house, which stands right in front of you boarded up, as you enter Bobrek — is that people are ok, but the problem is the condition of the buildings and infrastructure. They complain that they are forgotten by the city hall and administration. Bobrek is bordered with a mining waste dump, where some illegal waste is allegedly left, as well. On that day, when we visit Bobrek it stinks everywhere like rotten fish, telling that some mining waste has been left to the dump.

There is alcoholism and drug abuse, but at the same time, these women point out that it is only part of the community, only a fraction of the life. It seems that all children are taken care of or watched over with the women, as it was in a more agrarian village community. This leads to a crucial question for me. Why, in the more developed service communities, as it is in Katowice or Helsinki, this link of attachment disappears, while in the more poorly developed areas, this age old system of care, attachment and community still exists? The sense of attachment, as it is ingrained into our genes.

There is no library, cinema, culture centre, or any other activities, except what is organized by themselves and through a help centre, like our workshop. This in fact is a great asset, if you think how for instance the Multiplex cinemas killed the Gloria cinema at the Rynek of Bytom. They have nothing, but they have ability to organize themselves.
The diagrams themselves tell about the ability to see what is good in the place and also about the problems — i.e. ability to assess what is going on. This is one significant point of a diagram, it is not only a map, but it traverses many layers of life. It is not only an expression of self, but a reflection and assessment of a personal life situation.

One woman clearly describes one of the terrible nuissance of the place. She is living by the mainroad, and complaints how the whole house is trembling and shaking all day and all night long because of the busses, trams and trucks. Road has deep potholes, so the vehicles make noise which wake her up. She is clearly pissed off. Some other women draw more of the prettier side of Bobrek, and clearly everyone agrees that Bobrek is in itself beautiful because of the trees and small nooks of forest.