Photographer lovingly restores photos of 1930s Warsaw and the results are stunning

Photographer and IT specialist Mariusz Zając took old photos and videos he found online and using only his computer and several programs brought Warsaw of the 30s back to life. Mariusz Zając

Remarkable colourised photos of pre-war Warsaw show the beautiful side of the city before its complete devastation.

Photographer and IT specialist Mariusz Zając took old photos and videos he found online and using only his computer and several programs brought Warsaw of the 30s back to life.

Zając gathered public domain photos from the National Digital Archive and Facebook fanpage Przedwojenna Warszawa (Pre-war Warsaw) to recreate the feel and atmosphere of the bustling city, once called the Paris of the East.Mariusz Zając

Zając, whose everyday job is wedding photography, was inspired by the 4K quality re-mastering of the historic 1896 Lumière brothers' film "The Arrival of a Train ".

He gathered public domain photos from the National Digital Archive and Facebook fanpage Przedwojenna Warszawa (Pre-war Warsaw) to recreate the feel and atmosphere of the bustling city, once called the Paris of the East.

Many of the locations are still recognisable today, such as the Three Crosses square (Plac Trzech Krzyży).Mariusz Zając

In an interview with warszawa.naszemiasto.pl Zając said: “I am a native of Warsaw. I know Julien Bryan's films very well and I always wanted to see them in colour.”

Bryan was an American photographer, filmmaker, and documentarian, who captured life in Poland in the years 1935-39 on film. The footage from the Fall of Warsaw was later used in a documentary titled “Siege”, which was shown in the Unites States in 1940.

Zając spent only two days colorising the images.Mariusz Zając

In the video Zając posted on Youtube on February 28th, Varsovians can spot many locations recognizable to this day, such as Krakowskie Przedmieście street, the building of the Polish Academy of Sciences, today’s Warsaw City Hall, Bankowy and Piłsudski Squares, and crowds strolling through the Saski Park. All of this interlaced with crowds of people, trams, cars and even carriages, making the streets as busy as they are today.

To achieve this extraordinary result, Zając used a number of apps and programs, such as deOldify, Topaz Labs, 3D LUT Creator, DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere. DeOldify played a special role in the mix, as it incorporates neural networks and machine learning algorithms to correct photos.

Zając used a number of apps and programs, such as deOldify, Topaz Labs, 3D LUT Creator, DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere.National Digital Archive/ Mariusz Zając

Remembrance of things past.Mariusz Zając

No matter how recognizable parts of Warsaw are in the photos, they are also a reminder of the terrible fate the city suffered during the World War II.Mariusz Zając


“Most of the graphic designers, not related to IT, would be terrified of working with this program. I spent two days trying to figure out how to run it,” explained Zając.  “Then the computer coloured the material in three hours.”

In total, the whole process took just over two days.

The results of Zając’s project are both impressive and nostalgic. Yet, no matter how recognizable parts of Warsaw are in the photos, they are also a reminder of the terrible fate the city suffered during the World War II.

Hala Mirowska.Mariusz Zając

With between 80 and 90 percent of the capital razed to the ground, the colourised version of Warsaw prepared by Zając shows a different face of the city, than the one we know today.

Pre-war Warsaw was a city of around 1,265 million inhabitants, compared to the current 1,778 million. What’s more, 29 percent of the population were Jewish.

Ogród SaskiNational Digital Archive/Mariusz Zając

Although Warsaw of the 30s had 15,228 street lamps (about one third of them still using gas), 35 percent of the city was completely dark at nights, especially the outskirts.

The city was also a city of contrasts, as a big part of it was quite agrarian. In 1937, 9,000 horses, 2,100 cows, 1,300 pigs, 500 goats and 100 sheep lived in the city.