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Warsaw. The building of the Krasiński Estate Library has been empty for years. Why?

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“The building of the Library of the Krasiński Estate survived the ravages of war and could be the pride of the Polish capital” – MP Hanna Gill-Piątek raised in interpellations. However, the proceedings for the return of the property have been pending for 30 years, and the building is empty and undeveloped. Its legal status is unclear.

Hanna Gill-Piątek, an independent MP, wrote to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in 2021. As she pointed out, the building at 9 Okólnik Street from the beginning of the 20th century survived the occupation as one of the few in the heart of Warsaw. It’s been deteriorating for years.

“The outstanding public role of the building of the Krasinski Library has not been continued. This magnificent building does not deserve such treatment. We cannot afford the successive generations of free Poland to see the once wonderful library destroyed and devoid of collections. This is what the Nazi criminals left us. magnificence and public functions, it has become a matter of honor in today’s free and prosperous Poland” – she noted.

Luxurious suites and a state-of-the-art library

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The history of the building at Okólnik 9 dates back to 1912, when Edward Krasiński decided to erect a building intended for library collections, designed by Juliusz Nagórski. The well-known architect on his list includes, among others, tenement houses at: Koszykowa 8, 15 and 17, Nowy Świat 2 and Targowa 15. The project at Okólnik 9 was implemented by the Polish architect and engineer Henryk Julian Gay. The side annexes were completed at the turn of June and July 1913. Modern, luxurious apartments were rented to people from the government and diplomatic spheres.

Already in January 1914, the collections began to be made available in a makeshift reading room, organized in the premises adjacent to the warehouse on the ground floor of the left residential outbuilding. However, it was not until December 1930 that the official opening took place, attended by the President of the Republic of Poland, Ignacy Mościcki.

“The Krasiński Estate Library with a rich collection of museum exhibits and works of art, as well as a well-equipped, representative reading room turned out to be the most modern library seat of interwar Warsaw. Modernist architecture gained a historicizing, empire-style costume” – we read about the history of the building on the website of the Warsaw Monument Conservator.

The Germans burned the valuable crops after the capitulation of the uprising

The times of the Second World War did not spare the destruction of valuable collections. In May 1941, the Germans incorporated the library into the Staatsbibliothek Warschau, combined the National Library with the University Library in Warsaw and the Krasiński Library. The most valuable library collections were brought here from all over the city. Their destruction was brought about by the Warsaw Uprising. In Okólnik, the priceless collections of the 18th-century Załuski library, collections of Stanisław August, cymelia, manuscripts, maps, sheet music, engravings, and over two thousand incunabula burned down. In total, about 62 percent of the harvest was lost. The Germans burned them in October 1944 after the capitulation of the Warsaw Uprising, despite the fact that the conditions stipulated the obligation to preserve cultural property.

READ ALSO: They looked at rubble as at building material. This is how Warsaw was reborn

Thanks to the solid, reinforced concrete construction, the building itself and the residential outbuildings have survived. Reconstruction works were carried out in the years 1945-1950 according to the design of well-known Żoliborz architects: Barbara and Stanisław Brukalski. The surviving collections were transferred to the National Library, to which the building was later transferred in 1948.

The proceedings have been pending for 30 years, there are 32 heirs

The MP reminded that the post-war reconstruction of the building did not include its storage part. In the 1980s, the building was abandoned, and in the next decade, the Krasiński family put forward claims to the building. The proceedings have been pending since 1990. As we read in the MP’s interpellation, however, it did not get through the Ministry of Infrastructure. “The Krasińscy family is demanding that the ministry recognize the ruling of the Presidium of the National Council of 1954 to take away this property from them. The matter is complicated by the fact that there are as many as 32 heirs,” she pointed out.

Before the war, the building housed a public institution, but was in private hands. All the heirs wanted to keep this status. A few years ago, there were even talks with the University of Music about running a cultural institution together. The property restitution is still pending. The building stands empty and undeveloped, as its status is still unclear. In the interpellation, Gill-Piątek pointed out that the Property Management Department managing the property leased only part of the yard adjacent to the housing community at 9A Okólnik Street.

“No works, apart from those necessary to keep the property in a life-threatening condition, are not carried out” – she emphasized.

Only the south façade was renovated

The only thing that has been renovated today is the facade of the southern outbuilding of the former library. “Renovation works lasted from February to November 2017, and their culmination was the restoration of the stucco and sculptural decorations. Already after the completion of the works, the Housing Community of Real Estate at 9 Okólnik Street applied to the Office of the Capital Conservator of Monuments for a subsidy. It amounted to PLN 400,000, which covered 78.48% of the investment costs” – recalled the parliamentarian.

In 2017, the facade of the southern outbuilding was renovated Warsaw City Hall

In her opinion, the situation of this property “shows like in a lens what reprivatization of real estate means in practice.” “It is a long, complicated and sometimes never-ending administrative procedure. It is also proof that neither the government administration bodies (Ministry of Infrastructure) nor the local government (in this case it will be the former Office of Decree Matters in the Warsaw City Hall) are able to deal with this problem.” The case of returning the library building has been going on for 30 years, and there is no end in sight. How is it possible that the administrative procedure has not been completed for such a long time?” the MP asks.

In her opinion, the problem emerging in this topic is the lack of a comprehensive reprivatization act, which has been requested by local governments, urban movements, and above all, residents for years.

The renovation would cost up to PLN 20 million

What about this city? When asked about the building, the town hall directed us to the office of the Śródmieście district. His spokesman Paweł Siedlecki admitted in response that the building “due to its poor technical condition has not been used since 2002”.

As he mentioned, the ceilings and all installations in the building are in poor technical condition. “The facade, roof, skylights, door and window joinery, plasterwork require renovation works. The general renovation of the building is estimated at PLN 19-20 million” – he calculated.

“Due to pending proceedings regarding return claims, the public finance discipline does not allow for incurring financial expenses for general renovations of buildings without a regulated ownership status. Expenditures may only be incurred in the scope of works securing the building, failures or execution of administrative orders” – he noted.

Main photo source: Artur Węgrzynowicz / tvnwarszawa.pl

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