“Turn Round” is a long-term project about Upper Silesia, the largest industrial region in Poland.

Intensive industrial development of Upper Silesia began in the 18th century, following in the footsteps of the industrial revolution that transformed Europe. The vast reserves of black coal provided jobs and income to the region. The traditional economy—based mainly on agriculture—slowly declined. Over time, Upper Silesia became a land of coal mines and steel plants. Soon, cities expanded and the Upper Silesian agglomeration comprising over a dozen of towns was formed. After World War II, during the communist era, the region turned into a local El Dorado—a land of mineral riches.

In particular, heavy industry was the lifeblood of the communist regime and was seen as an icon of the country’s modernization. Upper Silesia witnessed a vast influx of people migrating from all over Poland. Tens of thousands of people were hoping for work and better lives here.

Alas, the socialist economy turned out to be a hidden time bomb for the region. After the great Solidarity movement revolution, when Poland joined the capitalist market economy, it was Upper Silesia that suffered the harshest consequences. Many factories shut down, and people were left without jobs or prospects. The smoking chimneys quickly disappeared from the horizon, and with them, many residents. The cities steadily emptied; some people returned to their hometowns, while younger people migrated to other countries in Europe.

Today, the region still exists as the industrial center of our country yet it is also searching intensely for a new identity. Dynamic socioeconomic changes are giving Upper Silesia a new character. And yet not everybody benefits equally from these changes. If you turn around for a moment, you can still see the past prowling right behind you.

—Tomasz Liboska

Editors’ note: Liboska is a member of the LensCulture Network, a recent initiative we launched with the idea of offering talented, accomplished photographers a place to showcase their work on a global stage while also giving them a place to share, learn and engage with one another. The LensCulture Network began with a small number of hand-picked members, and we are very excited to watch it grow and evolve.

If you’re interested in seeing more work on this and similiar topics, we’d recommend the following articles: Cut it Short, a series on two teen boys in Poland coming of age; Lands of No-Return, an award-winning series on the traditions and customs of the once-magical and vibrant villages in Ukraine; and Shepherds, a story about the shepherd community in Slovenia that is changing its ways after 500 years due to modernization.