“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.