After the 2nd World War all the money was spend to build up the western part of Warsaw, which was completely demolished. Praga, in the east of Warsaw, didn’t benefit from that and now it’s a district where time stands still. Its townscape consists of buildings in the classic style of the period of rapid industrial expansion, where the townspeople of Praga are left behind and live in slum-like circumstances. After the communism the old houses didn’t matched with the new idea of “The New Man”, so Praga ought to fall into disrepair. 40 percent of the apartments have no bath and every fourth living space even have no toilet. But the people know how to help themselves through their distinct community sense. Together they are strong and proud to call Praga their home. “Jest czymś się pochwalić. No poprostu kocham tą dzielnicę.”, they just love their hood!
On a sunny day I was discovering the very complex backyard and court system of Praga-Północ, northern Praga. If you just pass by the streets then you see nothing of what Praga is about. The deeper you go into the labyrinth, backyard after backyard, court after court, you wonder how many people you meet on your way: family gatherings, neighbours chatting, kids playing hide and seek, mothers pegging out the washing, groups of people smoking and drinking together… Certainly I hadn’t really the chance to take photos of these lively scenes, because they saw me like someone who is out of place and I didn’t want to offend anyone. So I just went by and tried to save the images in my mind to share them here with you.
At one point I saw a boy burning plastic trash in a little bonfire. I was approaching him photographing the washing line in the corner next to him. I caught his attention and we soon smoked a pipe of weed together with the smell of burned plastic in the air. We looked for a windless spot so we walked into the house entrance and got high. One of his best friends came by and joined us. I still wonder from where he just appeared. We just had a little of weed but this little fucker of pipe got everything out of it. So we walked pretty stoned through the alleys of Praga and they were proud to show me their graffiti pieces on the brick walls. On the way we met another good friend dribbling a football and they continued showing me their hood while kicking the ball constantly back and forth, telling me that they’re best friends and how they grew up together and that they love Praga, football and good weed. That would be all in their life. Legia Warszawa is their favorite team since they were young kids. Every time it was about their team you could hear a certain excitement in their voices, how Legia would be one of the most successful teams ever in Polish football history and so on and on.
We ended up in a stairwell of an apartment house where one of them lived, where they showed me the last pieces they made very long ago and finally their beloved bong of course. So we did some pics of them holding the bong, kicking the ball in front of the graffiti pieces… Pictures, telling their stories of life.