Colloquially known as ‘Szpiegowo’ (‘Spyville’), an iconic residential block that was once rumored to be a Soviet spy base looks likely to be saved from demolition according to latest reports.
Found close to the Russian Embassy at Sobieskiego 100, the property was seized by the city last year in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After originally planning to turn the building over to refugees fleeing the war, City Hall have spent months assessing the building’s standards to see if it met basic safety standards.
With no sign of the original plans, officials have had to undertake a complete inventory of the building whilst simultaneously mapping it.
Filled with loose cables, dangerous stairwells and assorted disintegrating elements, fears were raised that only outright demolition could cure it of its ills. Now, however, its future appears to have been safeguarded.
Speaking to the press yesterday, Tomasz Bratek, the Deputy Mayor, told reporters that – subject to further inspections – the building would most likely be saved from the wrecking ball.
“Work on inventorying the property is still ongoing,” said Bratek, “however, we can already say with 90% certainty that there will be no need to knock down the building.”
Continuing, Bratek added: “we are striving to restore the residential function of the building, although we can’t say whether that will ultimately be possible. We will need to wait for the end of the technical analysis, a process that I imagine will be completed in a matter of weeks.”
The property has long been considered one of the most enigmatic and mysterious buildings in the capital.
Built in the 1970s, and 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 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 as falling under the ownership 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 announcing plans to snag the land back and turn it over to Ukrainian families.
(Photos: Kevin Demaria)