My Polish Street: Polish Graffiti

polish street

Polandian Theme Month is a cunning invention that does away with the need for me to think up a new idea every week. This month’s theme is My Polish Street, which has the double advantage of providing a framework for a series of devastatingly incisive posts on modern urban Poland as well as eliminating the need for me to walk very far to take pictures. Today: Polish Graffiti.

I not exactly a fan of graffiti, but I do think there’s something weird and a bit dead about places that don’t have any. Fortunately my street has more than enough to make me feel comfortable. Looking at it closely I was pleased to discover several different types, thereby reassuring myself that the whole thing wasn’t a completely daft idea for a post.

Here are six exemplars:

1. The tag

tag

I’ve never understood the idea of prominently and repeatedly writing your name in public places in a form that nobody can read or understand, but then I’m far too old to need to. Tagging is an idea that’s caught on here as firmly as everywhere else in the world. It’s an amazing thing culture.

2. Sarcastic graffiti

brak flagi

This one has a distinctly Polish feel to it. Last year on the 3rd of May some public-spirited fellow went up and down my street and wrote this on the wall of every building that wasn’t flying a Polish flag in celebration of Constitution Day. It simply reads: 3rd of May, no Polish flag.

3. Discursive graffiti

Polish graffiti

I found this, rather long, comment concerning a national football team scrawled on the door of a nunnery next to my building. I particularly like the way some more taciturn commentator has come along later and simply crossed it out.

4. Arty graffiti

speach bubble

Hundreds of these empty speech bubbles appeared all over Krakow’s streets last year. It might be that you’re supposed to add your own devastating comment on modern society in the space provided, or the empty speech bubble might itself be a comment on the futility of writing on walls. Either way it reeks of art students.

5. Folk art graffiti

Dla Ani

This rather charming mural takes up much of one wall of a building at the end of the street. The text at the bottom right reads: For Anna on the occasion of her 18th. Since there’s a high school just around the corner I’m guessing this was created as a romantic gesture from one student to another. Hope it helped.

6. National favorite

HWDP

This is the one piece of graffiti you will see everywhere in Poland, though nobody has been able to explain to me why it’s so popular. HWDP is an acronym for a phrase that makes an anatomically explicit suggestion to the police. I won’t translate it because it’s rather rude.

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38 thoughts on “My Polish Street: Polish Graffiti

  1. Clare says:

    i’m afraid the “arty graffiti” was nothing but some advertising hype for a mobile phone service… http://www.36i6.pl/ disappointing i know :)

  2. island1 says:

    Art students, advertising executives; same thing.

  3. Bartek says:

    1. the name is illegible to me
    2. but how about “1st of May – no-flag day”. Have you heard about old Polish tradition of caretaker’s day, after accession to the EU renamed into “A Flag Day”?
    3. the rhymes are missing and the wall apparently needs to refurbrished
    4. Clare beat me to it with the 36i6 suggestion, but now it’s time you tried to look for TurboDymoMan in Kraków
    5. those flowers are really lovely and artistic, I think it’s a collective work
    6. Why so few people wonder why the phrase contains an orthographic error?

    Now I owe you only nine bucks…

  4. Ewa says:

    My favourite is the stencilled graffiti on the wall of the Bożego Ciała church in Kazimierz: Czy Was kolana nie bolą?

  5. MaterialGirl says:

    Bartek,

    both form chuj and huj are correct! Huj is just more seldom used form! Naturally both are incorrect in the companionship crème de la crème!
    Inny słownik języka polskiego PWN. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 2000. T.1 A…Ó, s.179

    Island,

    and I will translate because I have got balls, though I’m a girl! :D
    HWDP = Prick into the police ass.

    It’s sth for Scatts, because he wrote one day elaboration on the pryk theme! :D

  6. MaterialGirl says:

    Island1 again,

    sorry I’m too fast! I wanted also recommende to you graffiti on Kawiory wall. Bus 173 to the Miasteczko Akademickie.

  7. Scatts says:

    Is that photo actually your street or just a generic Krakow street?

  8. Steven says:

    you translate that with such glee. I am so impressed with your balls.

  9. island1 says:

    It is my street, and a damn fine street it is too.

  10. Bartek says:

    you seem to be so versed in the topic of swear words that I won’t even dare to call your knowledge into question…

    “Inny słownik…”? Did you have draw on “the other dictionary” cause the normal one doesn’t list the aforementioned word under H letter?

    Still nine bucks owed, as this comment doesn’t add any value…

  11. conejoinfernal says:

    In my opinion none of the photos showes the TRUE graffiti, which is art and not just vandalism.

  12. Steven says:

    We have 50 million illegal alien artists in the States, you would love LA…

  13. island1 says:

    Caretaker’s day? Do elaborate.

  14. island1 says:

    “Don’t your knees hurt?”

    I’ll have to look out for that one

  15. island1 says:

    Kawiory the street? That’s not far from me, maybe I’ll go and have a look.

  16. Malaysian says:

    My favourites have to be the empty speech bubble and the mural near the school.

    I’m guessing though that the mural was done first, and a boy who can’t draw simply added his message to ‘complete’ his mural:)

  17. Bartek says:

    Back in the People’s Poland the Labour Day was widely celebrated (also by adorning streets and houses with flags), but was forbidden to celebrate the anniversary of passing 3rd May constitution, which fell just two days later. That is why the flags had to be removed until then. Someone had to do that job and those were usually caretakers who had their hands full taking the flags away on 2nd May. Thus it was dubbed a caretaker’s day, in Polish Dzień ciecia

  18. Scatts says:

    Material, thanks for that! So am I guessing correctly that the phrase is something like “Huj w dupie Policja”??

    Nahh, something wrong there but I’m sure you’ll correct me.

  19. […] writes about and posts photos of the Polish graffiti. Cancel this […]

  20. […] Polandian writes about and posts photos of the Polish graffiti. […]

  21. Pistefka says:

    Mm personal favourite when I lived in Poland was:

    “Skini do Jaskini”

    …a fine sentiment.
    I would prefer it if graffiti scrawlers limited themselves to writing on objects with little artistic inherent value, like toilet doors, factories and so forth – defacing nice old buildings always seems a bit crass.

  22. ye that speech bubble was a bit of a shame, but was cool though

  23. MaterialGirl says:

    Scatts,

    Correct, only polish declination incorrect!
    Huj w dupę policji!

  24. MaterialGirl says:

    Steven,

    exactly. Normally I’m the babuleńka in the shawl/scarf on my head standing on the Kleparz (market place) with a basket full of eggs! :D

  25. MaterialGirl says:

    Empty speech bubbles, so called in polish “dymki”/smokes/reeks/hazes??? were the publicity of some new mobile phone company, but I don’t remember which one exactly, Heyah or sth else?

  26. Ania says:

    hm. right. that’s a good observation, I don’t recall any graffitis in the Midlands…
    maybe there are some in London?

  27. Catherine says:

    Just got back from a visit to Krakow – I have stayed in 2 different apartments on this street over the last year! Great to see it again, but I do miss the parking attendant with the beard now that he is replaced with an EU mandated machine.

  28. island1 says:

    Maybe you stayed right here. There are two holiday-let apartments in my building providing endless entertainment.

    Those new machines are nothing on the old guys with the day-glo jackets and the digital cameras, but I guess that’s progress.

  29. Pioro-Boncza says:

    I have my own theory on graffiti: the more affluent a country becomes the better looking the graffiti becomes. In 1990’s Warsaw graffiti often consisted of nothing more than words like “sex” or “rap” scrawled thinly on a wall with the charm of a times new roman font. Nowadays they are starting to look more creative often using two or even three colors, but still far away from the amazing pieces you can find across NYC, Frankfurt, or Bristol…keep working on them boys and soon we will get there. I am referring to bombs and pieces (the big colorful works that take hours not seconds to produce), and not tags.

    You did fail to mention two most disturbing forms of graffiti in Poland: the soccer hooligan tags and the really terrible anti-semitic tags that you can particularly find in large numbers in Polish B cities like Lodz and Bytom like the ubiquitous R(Star of David)S meaning to look like Raus (get out in German).

  30. Catherine says:

    The endless entertainment being watching us struggle to open the doors with the old locks and many-copied keys? Yes, I have stayed in #20 and #11.I preferred #11 because I could look out of the window and see all the action on the street, the nuns, the school children, great fun.

  31. island1 says:

    One of those is my building – can’t say which one; paparazzi and stalkers doncha know.

    Yes, that is pretty funny. Sometimes I offer to help but pretend I can’t speak English. Actually, now I come to think about it the whole key/door theme is a good one for a post.

  32. Scatts says:

    Muchas gracias!

  33. zarazek says:

    ‘This is the one piece of graffiti you will see everywhere in Poland’ and beyond I’d add.
    I’ve seen a ticker saying ‘HWDP’ stuck onto a police information booth (or whatever it was) in Glasgow city centre…

  34. DeCoy says:

    The most prominent graffiti I have seen on my sleepy street in Kraków has usually been TSW – for Wisla Kraków. Can’t say I’ve noticed the HWDP too much, but it can be that I wasn’t looking out for it.

    I’m sure I wil notice it everywhere from now on. Damn sub-conscious!

  35. MK says:

    To be precise the wall is located at the corner of Kijowska and Nawojki street.

    Another place worth seeing is wall of WKS Wawel on Głowackiego street (not far from Uniwersytet Pedagogiczny).

  36. SARAH says:

    QUALITY I really like this blog, now im not 1 for adding links in my replies but I feel this is a great exception, I read a blog like this on http://www.graffiti-art-murals.co.uk by a graffiti artist called Banksy & another great bunch of graffiti artists called the Graffiti Kings.

  37. Name says:

    what about all the Wisła / Cracovia graffiti? that’s an everyday phenomena

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