Kraków According to Elżbieta Łapczyńska

27 July 2022

Culture and Engagement

My favourite spaces form something of a cultural patchwork and perform more than a single, obvious function. Different genres form relationships and grow fresh branches. I’m sure it’s a sign that they are alive.

Text: Elżbieta Łapczyńska

Dancing on the Ceiling

I spent some time looking for afro dance classes in Kraków – I fancied trying out some unpredictable moves, maybe looking silly with it but feeling like someone who’s able to try anything. That’s how I found Kontakt – a space for movement, dance, music and art at 40 Szpitalna Street. I went to my first afro dance lesson a few years later, because I was a bit scared of these free movement. Once I finally got round to it, I went to the wrong room – but I learned to do a handstand, so there’s that. I’ve been totally captivated by the dance and the school since the second lesson. Kontakt has a very wise attitude to our bodies, movements, voices and minds. You can immerse yourself in music and dance, sing in a choir, take a massage course and work on becoming aware of your own body – and the Body Mind Centering classes with Iwona Olszowska are simply mind-blowing! I wasn’t at all surprised that Kontakt launched psychological support immediately after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, and charity concerts and mindfulness classes have become permanent fixtures. Kontakt is run by a beautiful, buoyant community which I am slowly beginning to see as my own.

fot. Katarzyna Kukiełka

Summer in Warsztat’s Courtyard

Although Warsztat hosts concerts, it isn’t a club. It’s an independent anti-fascist venue, but not a squat. A few years before the foundation of Warsztat, Cracovian hardcore punks wandered the city in the footsteps of the travelling Kawiarnia Naukowa – an important space which, sadly, lost a bit of its soul with each new location. When the loose collective founded Warsztat at the brick building at 9a/9b Zabłocie, they finally found their new home – and I soon moved in nearby. I’ve attended all concerts from the cycles Please Don't Cry Fest ;( and Blindman Melodies from the very start, before the pandemic and again recently. The venue hosts gigs by alt-rock and folk bands from faraway musical lands. Warsztat is also famous for its techno nights – I’ve been meaning to go for years, but I always end up choosing a book and a blanket instead… The venue promotes community and equality; it’s engaged in campaigns saving forests and defending human rights, and it organises collections and social activities such as Food Not Bombs and freeshop. Warsztat celebrates its 6th birthday in June – expect parties on and off the stage! I’m hoping for loads of gigs throughout the summer – balmy evenings in the courtyard are the absolute best.

Open House

Utopia House – International Empathy Centre is located at the former Electrical School Complex (at 26a Szkolne Estate in Nowa Huta), as is the Łaźnia Nowa Theatre. The institutions are closely intertwined, and Utopia House is a fairly recent initiative yet to assume its final shape. I was due to attend as a student at the University of Seeing Through Theatre, but as it happened I ended up as a guest invited by Szymon Kloska to one of the university’s classes. I can certainly say it’s a welcoming space! It has become home to refugees from Ukraine, and it’s open to all residents of Nowa Huta and resident artists. But the links with the theatre don’t mean that guests only have drama to choose from. You can join in drives to make bags out of banners or species solidarity workshops, or simply wait out a storm over a cup of tea – like my friends and I did during a walk around the district. Next time I’ll take a peek at the roof garden, growing herbs and vegetables.

Best Bookshop

As I was leaving De Revolutionibus recently, I told Kinga – the soul of the place – that I’m thinking of moving in. And she agreed to take me in. It’s true that I visit the bookshop, café and more recently theatre and language school at 14 Bracka Street several times a week. Our common history started while I was still a student: I used to pop in to the philosophy section or to interdisciplinary discussions organised by the Copernicus Center. I started visiting the literature section after I graduated, when I swapped books by Michał Heller for those by Joseph Heller – that’s right, that’s where I bought books by both authors! “De Revo” is home to inanimate literature – books in Polish and English, as well as a huge shelf of poetry – and that of a very animate nature. I’ve been to countless meetings with authors, book launches and readings. Oh, and have I mentioned that my friends and I are learning Ukrainian at “De Revo”? And that I just discovered that derevo means tree in Ukrainian?

  • Elżbieta Łapczyńska
    Author of books, dramas, screenplays, comics and short stories. Laureate of the Conrad Award 2021 for her surrealist novel set in 1950s Nowa Huta. She lives and works in Kraków.

Photo by Dominik Stanisławski

The column was published in the 2/2022 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.


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