Lubin man recreates communist past with intricate handmade models
A modelling enthusiast from Lubin has created a stunning collection of handmade models depicting life under communism, after being inspired by his grandad’s old Fiat 126 p car.
Warehouse worker Marcin Wasilewski told TFN: “I loved the characteristics of the car, and it was also through my grandfather that I began watching TV shows and films that came from that time – after all, they featured lots of cars of that ilk.
“That’s where my interest in the PRL began.”
Fondly known as the Maluch (“the little one”), the Fiat 126 p became a cultural phenomenon under Communism, with the pocket-sized car produced from 1973 onwards primarily in the towns of Bielsko-Biała and Tychy. By 2000, when production ceased, over 4.5 million had rolled off the production line.
Of this number, it wasn’t just Wasilewski’s grandfather who owned one; with several running through the family, Wasilewski jokes he was practically born inside one.
Beguiled by their clunky but compelling aesthetics, from an early age Wasilewski began creating DIY models of the car after realizing none such miniatures were available for purchase.
“My first models were made using Lego blocks stuck with paper,” he says, “but later I began using just matches and paper for the body and plastic for the windows and working roughly to a scale of 1:100.”
But as intricate as these creations may have seemed to the layman, Wasilewski’s endeavours were about to become even more sophisticated.
Switching from paper to metal so that his creations would be easier to clean, Wasilewski currently dedicates himself to crafting vehicles on a scale of 1:136 (approximately 3.5 cm in length).
“I started using aluminium sheet metal around a year ago for the bodies, with the cars precisely measured out and then assembled using toothpicks to apply glue and tweezers to connect the different elements,” he says.
With this done, Wasilewski then installs the upholstered interiors and glass – also with tweezers – before applying final details such as door handles, reflectors, logos and, when necessary, sirens.
“Usually,” he says, “it’ll take me about one to two days to build a standard passenger car from scratch.”
The pursuit of accuracy, however, has also led to Wasilewski to extend into other fields like, for instance, creating suitable backdrops for his cars to stand in.
With this in mind, Wasilewski has been inspired by the works of Stanisław Bareja, a director best-known for Miś and Alternatywy 4, a cult comedy series based around the lives of a group of residents of a housing block in the Warsaw dormitory suburb of Ursynów.
Symbolic of the late PRL era, Bareja’s films and TV shows have proved the ideal background for Wasilewski’s cars, with the modeller keenly recreating scenes to include complex clay copies of tower block apartments and, even, their interiors.
Slavish in their detail, these have included the addition of bathroom fittings, wallpaper and, even, a reproduction of Jan Matejko’s epic painting The Battle of Grunwald – seen hanging in one character’s living room.
Not short on charm and personal touches, a sense of scale and retro authenticity has been lent to one of Wasilewski’s model scenes courtesy of a pack of Popularne cigarettes saved from the 80s. “My grandfather Janek decided to quit the habit for good one night,” explains Wasilewski, “but kept a pack as a souvenir!”
Complete, in some cases, with electricity, his models are arresting in their sense of accomplished craftsmanship, a fact not lost on the regional media that have recently covered his work.
For Wasilewski, though, local celebrity has not distracted him from his plans with the modeller already studying other Polish films to gain further ideas for the future.
“Ultimately,” he says, “it would be my dream to work at a miniature park making models of PRL buildings. It would be great to continue and build more in the same size around the blocks I’ve already made.”