City Reclaims Szpiegowo! | Warsaw Insider
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Once rumored to be a Russian spy base, one of Mokotow’s iconic buildings is set for a new lease of life housing Ukrainian refugees…... City Reclaims Szpiegowo!
City Reclaims Szpiegowo! City Reclaims Szpiegowo!

Once rumored to be a Russian spy base, one of Mokotow’s iconic buildings is set for a new lease of life housing Ukrainian refugees…

Colloquially known as ‘Szpiegowo’ (‘Spyville’), the mysterious buildings found at Sobieskiego 100 are set to be turned into apartments for Ukrainian refugees after being seized by City Hall’s bailiff earlier this morning. Seemingly long abandoned, the properties have been the subject of murky rumors ever since they were first built in the 1970s.

Originally serving as quarters for Soviet diplomats stationed in Warsaw, from the outside the apartments raised eyebrows for their unusual form – consisting of two blocks, these separate entities rose inwards like a pyramid and were connected at their apex by an inter-linking bridge.

As it proved, it was even more unique on the inside. Sometimes called Warsaw’s first gated apartment complex, access to Sobieskiego 100 was strictly controlled by guards. Luxurious by the standards of the times, its comforts included a sauna, gym, hairdresser, cinema and basketball court. To all intents and purposes, it was a self-sufficient world.

Built in close proximity to the HQ of Poland’s General Staff, it did not take long before gossips began speculating that the compound doubled as a spy base. For a time these rumors were stifled; when the Iron Curtain was found itself swept back in 1989, Sobieskiego 100 found itself quickly emptied of its Russian residents. Still, this was not the end, but only the beginning of the story.

With its ownership and legal status a matter of dispute between Poland and Russia, the property fell into dereliction yet remained closely guarded. On the gates, signs appeared claiming it the property of the Russian Embassy.

Briefly leased in 1998 to a mysterious firm that featured a high number of Communist era former Polish agents on its payroll, the espionage rumors refused to subside. When the firm, called Fart, later went bust, notices again appeared declaring the address as the property of Russia; with great frequency, those taking photos often complained of being harassed by goons or being approached by menacing security personnel.

But this was the tip of the iceberg. The handful of urbex explorers that successfully evaded security found evidence of Russian-language documents and newspapers dating from well into the new millennium. One even reported witnessing a suspicious-looking handover taking place on the grounds.

Yet more recently, the address was the site of a club open only to those holding Russian passports. Closed for good in 2017, Club 100 (or Sotka as it was nicknamed) was likewise beset with hearsay. According to one patron, “visitors would have found more Kalashnikovs inside than there were guests.”

Finally though, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine acted as the final straw. After months of legal posturing, March 1st saw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski announced plans to snag the land back and turn it over to Ukrainian families fleeing the war.

Fittingly somewhat, the same day saw one of the highest points of the block daubed in the colors of Poland and Ukraine.

Writing on Twitter, Trzaskowski said: “We have been working on taking over the real estate at Sobieskiego 100 for months. We now have final court verdicts in place and a bailiff has been appointed. In view of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, we decided it would be logical to house displaced Ukrainian families there in the long-run.”

Now, the property has been seized once and for all after bailiffs turned up this morning. According to one report in Gazeta Wyborcza, a Russian diplomat present at the scene complained that “this is not what diplomacy looks like.”

The paper also reported that a security guard was seen fleeing the site with an electric heater.

As things stand, the city plans to turn over the property to refugees, however, that could change once inspectors assess the condition of the buildings.


(Photos: Kevin Demaria)

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