A PLACE out of time
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.
The miners’ church, Ste. Ann’s, overlooks the