Poznan alternative community prospers
Rozbrat is the oldest squat in Poland. It was “founded” 14 years ago by groups of the Poznan freedom movement looking for their own place of safety. They found the barracks of a bankrupted warehouse. Initially, Rozbrat’s role was as a house similar to freedom communes. Now it is also a center of alternative culture, freedom and anarchist movements. But soon it may become history, as the bank that bought out the debts of the former owner of the area, where Rozbart is situated, wants to get his property back. The founders of Rozbrat are shocked, but they are not giving up.
“I can’t believe it. I’ve lived here for a while now. It is an uncommon place, and (helps) great people,” said Justyna, a sociology student. Last week a bailiff visited Rozbrat to estimate its value for further auction. Here is how the squatters living in Rozbrat described this incident on their web site:
“Around 10:00 the bailiff together with cops came to Rozbrat squat. The policemen drilled the lock of the gate. The bailiff had court permission to come in and estimate the price of the ground. The middle part of Rozbrat squat (including both concert halls, gallery, bars, library and part of the living area) was indebted for a long time by a company that doesn’t exist anymore. The ground price evaluation today means that the ground can be auctioned within one or two months. That can mean the end of Rozbrat squat – the longest occupied space in Poland.”
“We count on you being ready to organize solidarity actions by you and your groups. We’re not gonna give up without a fight,” they added.
From the beginning, Rozbrat has been a flat for a group of people. Now there are 15 to 20 squatters there. Broad cultural and social activity is undertaken at Rozbrat, for example, concerts, exhibitions, festivals and similar events. As individuals and as a group, people living in Rozbrat are often invited to take part in organizing projects. They arrange lectures and workshops. In time, concerts were organized at Rozbrat. For safety reasons, admission was allowed only by invitation, but the concerts were organized more and more frequently, and their character began to be more open. This kind of cultural activity dominated the early years. A bigger room was adapted and sound equipment collected. Slowly, Rozbrat’s character began to be more cultural.
Today, Rozbrat is a unique center of independent culture in Poznan and the entire Wielkopolska region. The activity there would be difficult to duplicate in the commercialized world. People who live there have created an environment based on independent social and cultural activity: without donations, subsidies, sponsors, outside of the system, outside of the good or bad economic situation, for themselves, for propagating independent thought and for building social consciousness.
As Marek Piekarski of the Rozbrat Collective said after the bailiff’s visit last week, nothing that would change their situation has happened. They are still under the threat of eviction, but it is hard to say when it could happen. Their legal situation should clarify within two or three weeks.
In Europe squat evictions often end up with struggles or even fights with police and bodyguards seeking to clean up the area. Inhabitants are supported by city inhabitants and artists and squatters from other cities and countries. It is likely that squatters in Poznan will receive some help by, for example, squatters from Berlin in return for last year’s support.
Rozbrat’s founders and inhabitants say they will defend Robrat with all legal and necessary means. “So far, Rozbrat is still active,” its web site reports.