a journal of queer studies

A miniscule picture-guide to Michał Witkowski's Wroclaw as described in the novel "Lubiewo"

Paulina Rogulska

This series of photographs is an invitation for a walk around Wrocław — a short walk, though the places in the photos are sometimes several kilometres apart. It takes us to the city’s cruising grounds, past former Russian military headquarters and other meeting places popular among the heroines of Michał Witkowski’s Lubiewo. While not all the sites mentioned in the novel are shown below, each of those photographed is filled with spirits of Hrabina, Patrycja, Lukrecja, Tola and Joanna, the Holy Mother of Fags. The photos were taken in June 2005 as a supplement to a presentation on Lubiewo given at a queer studies conference. Each one is complemented with a quote from the book. Welcome!

At the Swimming Pool reception she gave me a frosty look. She was slightly bald and her hair was dyed and curled like sheep’s. (69)

And so they would hang out — the actress and the other one from the ballet — for hours and hours on the main street next to the department store, that is, next to the most central cruising area and the traffic lights, and talking among themselves using the feminine forms. (113)

When the actress had a row with her boyfriend from the operetta, she took all his clothes out of the house — her house — and hung them along the moat (there used to be a cruising ground along the moat in those days) on the railings between the water and the path. (114)

In fact Jessie was only close with Angelica from social welfare and together they would go to the park or the sauna which, in those days, was called the State Swimming Pool Company. (39)
And you, Mr. Journalist, what did they call you at the Orbis Café and over by the opera house? Wasn’t it Snow White? (17)

Under communism, across from the opera house there was this little Orbis Café, sometimes called The Little Queen, Orbisowka, Queenland, and Queeniebar by people from out of town. (40)

Since she [Joanna, the Holy Mother of Fags - P.R.] had three hearts, she had tenderness left over for mothering the black-market money changers residing on the opposite side of the street at the Monopol Hotel Café. (46)

So, under communism, Lucia the Swimming Pool Lady lived there, above the butcher’s on the main street. Where the Green Cock Pub is now. (72)

And so he looks at me as if I was a slut working in Gwarna Street next to the railway station. Well, as a matter of fact, I do work there. And a fine slut I am, too. (14)

In one of the photos of the pre-war Wrocław you can see Polski Square with an elegant sculptured public toilet in the place of today’s round one. (30)

Throughout the communist era, a famous Actress would memorize her parts while cruising in the park. On a bench. Her fans would come up to her asking for autographs and she would oblige. The queens would ask her what she was studying; they would memorize the lines with her to later act out parodies on the hill. There used to be a communist band shell up there-a perfect invention for queens. (113)

When they went cruising, they would stand on both sides of the street near the Racławice Panorama spotting the motorists, to later make up wild stories about them. (39)

The Russian army barracks in Koszarowa street used to be called the commandant’s headquarters. So we would say: “ We’re heading for the commandant headquarters,” as opposed to the other barracks in the Krzyki district… (25)

Since Patrycja had a guilty conscience, when she saw me in the distance she hid behind McDonald’s and peeped out from around the corner. (264)

Once she [Rolka – P.R.] is finally admitted to this faculty [the Papal Faculty of Theology – P.R.] she will be considered a saint, you’ll see! Yet she was the first one on the cruising grounds! And at the sauna too. Even today she asked me: “Have you been to that sauna in Zelwerowicza Street?” (99)

For fifty years that tin hut, tin shed, or rotunda was for the fags what the shopping mall is for today’s middle class. (27)

They come to life at night. They can see better then. During the day they wear those ugly sunglasses with gold rims bought at some flea market. When they spend the nights wondering over Polskie Hill and the parks, when they fumble around the railway station benches full of sleeping soldiers, drunks, and drug addicts, when they poke their noses — long from the constant sniffing — into the round tin-walled public toilets, then every passer-by hovering in the distance brings a shiver of hope: it’s him! (55)

Michał Witkowski "Lubiewo", (2005) Krakow: wydawnictwo korporacja ha!art

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