Fascinating now-and-then photomontages show war-torn Warsaw of 1944 Uprising juxtaposed with today’s vibrant capital
Culture | History | Life
Alex Webber August 01, 2022
First created with the idea of allowing “people from the past to enter our reality”, Marcin Dziedzic’s photographs seamlessly merge images taken during the Uprising with photos of contemporary Warsaw.
Using a mobile app to calculate the exact time a picture was originally shot, the complex process involved Dziedzic having to account for weather, light and angles before being able to successfully overlap the parallel worlds of then and now. First released in 2014 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Uprising, the online project (teraz44.pl) has since spawned a book featuring accompanying texts by Michał Wójcik, as well as an offshoot honouring the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Looking battle weary but proud, six insurgents rest on an uprooted tree in Pl. Dąbrowskiego. Amid the hell of war, theirs is a moment of peace.Marcin Dziedzic
Arguably the most iconic images of the Uprising were those taken of the Prudential tower being peppered by German artillery. Captured on the first day of battle, it withstood over 1,000 rounds, among them this hit by a two-ton shell. The effect of seeing the Polish flag fluttering from the top floor of the country’s tallest building galvanized the local population, and despite heavy bombardment the building refused to topple. Only when the capitulation was signed did the Germans regain it. Today, it serves as a five-star hotel.Marcin Dziedzic
Wearing the colours of Poland, a platoon commander identified as Włodzimierz Radajewski smiles broadly for the camera whilst smoking a cigarette on Moniuszki street. He was killed in action close by in early September. In the background, a glass tower is emblazoned with the words ‘The New Is Coming Soon’, adding a bitter hint of irony to the image.Marcin Dziedzic
For the duration of the 63-day battle, Warsaw became a city of ad hoc barricades. On the crossroads of Marszałkowska and Wilcza, three combatants take down time; around them, modern residents both young and old hurry about their daily lives.Marcin Dziedzic
Soldiers from the Kiliński battalion stand outside the PAST building on Zielna 47 whilst a girl taps out a message on her mobile device. The scene of bitter hand-to-hand fighting, German troops defended the building for twenty days before surrendering on August 20th. Serving as a telephone exchange, it was a key target for the insurgents – today, among other functions, it houses a Veterans Association.Marcin Dziedzic
Taken on Świętokrzyska, a young insurgent proudly pauses for a photo during a lull in fighting. “For the time being,” says Marcin Dziedzic, “people could relax a little in this part of the city – but just a few kilometres away, it was a slaughter.”Marcin Dziedzic
On ul. Złota, a woman looks at herself in a handheld mirror. In the original image, she is flanked by debris and ruins. Now, another woman passes her wearing what appears to be a t-shirt announcing ‘I Love Me’. “Quite often I’d be taking 20 to 40 pictures of the same spot, essentially so I could get cool passers-by into the shot,” says Marcin.Marcin Dziedzic
Soldiers identified as Zygmunt Sadkowski, Julian Bednarski, Ryszard Lipski and Tadeusz Depczyk (far left) pose with their weaponry. Three days after this photo was taken, Depczyk was fatally wounded by shrapnel. He was twenty-two years of age.Marcin Dziedzic
In one image, a Home Army soldier on Solec takes aim from a trench or a shell hole at a young couple enjoying a fleeting kiss. Behind, a heavily gutted building is juxtaposed against the gleaming office block opposite.Marcin Dziedzic
A patrol led by Stanisław Jankowski dashes into action on ul. Chłodna, passing a billboard advertising the TV series The Walking Dead. The original image was taken by Stefan Bałuk: having escaped the occupation to fight in France, he later volunteered for sabotage and intelligence training in Glasgow. Parachuted into Poland in April, 1944, after the war he was imprisoned by the Communists for his subversive activities before later finding work as a taxi driver and photographer. He died in 2014.Marcin Dziedzic
On Warecka street, close to Nowy Świat, three insurgents catch their breath having successfully escaped from the Old Town via the sewers running beneath the city. In this picture, Izabela Wilbik smiles gently as her relative, Małgorzata Koszelew, rests her hand on her shoulder in this expertly posed montage. Wilbik, who served as a nurse, was killed less than two weeks after the original photo was taken. She was sixteen years old.Marcin Dziedzic
As upmarket vehicles inch their way behind him, Eugeniusz Lokajski strikes a casual pose for the camera on Chmielna street. Once the national javelin champion, Lokajski represented his country in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and was later credited with taking over 1,000 photos of the Warsaw Uprising. Though excelling in combat, during the final stages of the Uprising his skills as a photographer were utilized in the preparation of forged documents – whilst stocking up on photographic supplies in a store Marszałkowska, he was caught in an artillery bombardment and killed.Marcin Dziedzic
On Bracka, in another purposefully posed image, Arkadiusz Szajner (wearing t-shirt), meets Zdzisław Orzechowski, the grandfather he never knew. Orzechowski was seriously injured on October 3rd, and his ultimate fate has never been determined.Marcin Dziedzic
*This article was first published on August 01, 2019.