Instead of Statue

29 June 2023

Many people and organisations have worked hard to create Kraków’s latest green space – the Wisława Szymborska Park – just a few hundred metres from the Main Market Square.  

Grzegorz Słącz
Kraków Culture

For many years the site held a temporary carpark with an entrance from Karmelicka Street. Several changes of ownership and failed plans to revitalise the spot brought the square into growing disrepair, making it an eyesore in the centre of the city. Activists have spent the last decade campaigning for the creation of a park, with thousands of local residents signing a petition and the movement attracting many Cracovian personalities. The efforts have turned out to be a success, and the project is being funded through the civic budget of the City of Kraków. The next petition to name the park after Wisława Szymborska was welcome by all, and the Kraków City Council voted unanimously in favour on 10 June 2020. The notes on the vote say, “In our view this is a unique way of celebrating the Nobel laureate. The park is located by the Voivodeship Public Library and the Writers’ House at Krupnicza Street where Szymborska spent a significant part of her professional life. More than anything, it fulfils the wishes of Kraków’s residents, a great number of whom signed the petition ‘YES to the Wisława Szymborska Park’, and the creative circles supporting the idea.”  

Works are currently being finalised during Year of Wisława Szymborska, formerly proclaimed by the Senate of the Republic of Poland, and the opening is planned for 2 July – the poet’s centenary. The campaign involved the Voivodeship Public Library whose “Green Reading Room” in the gardens adjacent to the new park was built at the same time, and the Wisława Szymborska Foundation, coordinator of all anniversary events in Kraków. The entire project is being implemented by the Kraków Municipal Greenspace Authority, and the concept forms a part of municipal efforts to counteract the negative impact of climate change. The organisers have worked hard to ensure a high biodiversity by including over twenty species of trees (including fruit trees), around twenty species of shrubs and myriad other plants, some of which are arranged by colour into blue, yellow, red and green sensory gardens. We’ll also find a coppice, a meadow and ponds linked by a stream. Many of the tree species have been selected for their beneficial properties for the climate as part of a growing global trend; they include the European hornbeam Carpinus betulus, the Turkish hazel Corylus colurna and the hop hornbeam Ostrya carpinifolia, all of which tolerate variable and even extreme weather and water conditions. 

The park is also home to numerous benches and bike racks, as well as elements directly recalling the life and work by Wisława Szymborska. A special composition on the wall incorporates some of her favourite objects, while other park installations allow visitors to create their own texts following the principles of Szymborska’s collages of newspaper clippings. There are also excerpts from her poems, and of course umbrellas, which she was notorious for losing… Would she feel at home here? We’d certainly like to think so! And in just a few months’ time, the nearby Małopolska Garden of Arts opens the exhibition Fair of Miracles exploring her personal interest and passions and showcasing items she loved to surround herself with. During Year of Szymborska, Rajska Street and the surrounding area becomes the perfect spot for reading, contemplating the world and relaxing surrounded by poetry. 

Design: Gajda Landscape Architecture, visualisation / from the archive of the Kraków Municipal Greenspace Authority


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