A PLACE out of time

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FYI -

NIKISZOWIEC es­tates in Ka­tow­ice stand as a re­minder the ex­trac­tion of coal once was deemed hon­ourable work that should be justly re­warded. The model com­mu­nity, named af­ter the Nick­isch mine, which opened in 1906, was the brain­child of two “pro­gres­sive” cousins, Jerzy and Emile Zill­man, to house min­ers in the back­yard of their work­place. It con­sists of a se­ries of three-storey rec­tan­gu­lar row-house com­plexes, each sur­round­ing an in­ner court­yard and di­vided by streets ac­cessed through arched en­trance ways.

The com­mu­nity was self-suf­fi­cient, and in­cluded its own school, hospi­tal, po­lice sta­tion bak­ery and church, St. Ann’s parish church, the spire of which ris­ing over the es­tates cre­ates a post­card pic­ture even the most am­a­teur of pho­tog­ra­phers can cap­ture.

Its most strik­ing fea­ture, aside from its func­tional yet pleas­ing de­sign, is the treat­ment of win­dows, all lace-cur­tained with white painted sashes and sur­rounded by red­painted frames.

It is said it was al­ways safe to walk its streets, which were un­der con­stant sur­veil­lance by the wives of coal min­ers from their sec­ond-storey kitchen win­dows.

The coal mine that in­spired the construction of the es­tates has since closed, in large part be­cause its pro­cesses had re­mained as old and un­chang­ing as the es­tates them­selves.

To­day, the min­ers’ res­i­dences are slowly be­ing gen­tri­fied — solid, three-storey her­itage town­houses are not that easy to find — and the en­tire com­mu­nity is be­ing con­sid­ered for des­ig­na­tion as a UNESCO world her­itage site.

A woman leans out her win­dow to smoke at cen­tury-old Nikiszowiec mine work­ers’ es­tate in Ka­tow­ice. By tra­di­tion, all win­dows are white in red frames with white lace cur­tains in­side.

Moth­balled lift tow­ers (left) are com­mon­place sights in and around Ka­tow­ice. Above, an out­door stair­way leads to a pub in the min­ers’ district. Right, con­trac­tor Bog­dan Siko­rski wel­comes Ger­ald Flood to an aban­doned steel mill in Ka­tow­ice.

GER­ALD.FLOOD@FREEP­RESS.MB.CA

The min­ers’ church, Ste. Ann’s, over­looks the

Nikiszowiec es­tates.

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