As the city prepares to honor the anniversary of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, join us for a look at the extraordinary colorized images of Mikołaj Kaczmarek, a graphic artist committed to bringing the past alive…
Firmly established as one of the country’s premier ‘colorizers’ of historic photographs, Kaczmarek’s work has served to breathe life into historic events – however, it his Uprising-related work that has earned the most publicity.
First turning his hand to colorization a few years ago after being inspired by a film about the 63-day insurgency, the graphic artist has set a benchmark with his output and has since seen his images go globally viral. Often updating and adding to his library of images, we take a look at some of his more recent.
Now known as Pl. Powstańców Warszawy, this image was originally taken by Sylwester ‘Kris’ Braun and shows insurgents manning a barricade. Visible in the background is the Prudential skyscraper – currently functioning as the luxury Hotel Warszawa, this was Poland’s tallest building at the time, and a key target of the Home Army. Captured on the first day of the Uprising, it was subsequently pounded by over 1,000 rounds of German artillery but still refused to topple. For more on its story, see: Hotel Warszawa
Afforded a moment of rest, a band of Home Army soldiers pose at a barricade erected on Zgoda. Featuring combatants of vastly differing ages, the unit pictured by Sylwester Braun typified the assortment of fighters. Explaining why so many normal people felt it was their duty to rise against the Nazis, Colonel Kazimierz Iranek-Osmecki explained:
“One had to live through five years of occupation in Warsaw to know what the population and soldiers felt. You had to live day after day, hour after hour for five years in the shadow of Pawiak prison; you had to see your friends disappear one by one during those months; you had to feel your heart cramp in your chest every time, you heard the sound of salvos each day ringing so often that you became used to them, as if they were church bells… One had to experience all this to understand that Warsaw could not help but fight.”
Taken in happier times by photographer Larysa Kruger, this idyllic scene depicts the Saxon Gardens in their full pomp and splendor. Then known as the Paris of the East on account of its beauty, it is easy to understand the attachment and pride Poles felt towards their capital.
During what appears to be a brief lull in fighting, an insurgent peers out of the church on Krakowskie Przedmieście – with a determined look on his face, and his helmet marked in the colors of the Polish flag, this captivating image leaves many questions unanswered. What it does do, however, is perfectly capture the spirit and tenacity of those who bore arms to fight for their country’s freedom.
There is no glory in war, and perhaps the most poignant of all of Kaczmarek’s more recent projects has seen him remember those that died by colorizing their portraits before placing them at their graves. Young, old, make and female, they are among the tens of thousands that paid the ultimate price: at 5 p.m., we shall remember.
For more on Mikołaj, see: the Uprising in color