In a Museum Mirror

21 June 2019

As part of the celebrations of its 120th anniversary, the Kraków Museum presents a cycle of exhibitions dedicated to past and present inhabitants of the city’s historical districts. The leading motif of the celebrations is the mirror, and contemporary Cracovians can examine themselves at ongoing exhibitions at the Zwierzyniecki House (to 1 September), Museum of Nowa Huta (to 13 October), the Hipolit t House (to 27 October) and the Podgórze Museum (to 22 September), with an exhibition dedicated to Kazimierz Dwellers at the Old Synagogue (from 3 July) telling the story of the district which had undergone the most dramatic changes in the last century.

The motif of migration, present throughout the exhibitions, has a particularly poignant twist in the context of Kazimierz. Founded in the 14th century, in the centuries that followed the city became a haven for Jewish settlers from all corners of the globe. It was also home to Jews expelled from Kraków in 1494 (they were not allowed to live in the main city until 1867). The tragic culmination of the history of Jewish Kazimierz was the Nazi occupation during the Second World War, with the residents first exiled to a ghetto on the other side of the Vistula River and from there to Nazi concentration camps. Very few survived the Holocaust, and most of the survivor left Poland at the end of the war.

During the communist era, Kazimierz became increasingly run down, and the new residents of the dilapidated buildings were generally regarded as second-class citizens. After many difficult years, the vibrant district is now full of life once again, and the charming streets, restored tenement houses, synagogues and churches attract tourists in their droves. (Dorota Dziunikowska, “Karnet” magazine)

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