By Rowan Sylva
Konstancin, Poland – the habitable town transitions seamlessly into the crumbling ruins reclaimed by the forest. Indeed the town itself is a forest. Where elsewhere the yards, lawns and gardens would be well trimmed, groomed and delineated, here the trees grow through the lawns just as they do in the nearby unbuilt-in forest, where the trunks of the trees are ghostly blue with lichen.
The shop is one corner of an abandoned mansion, behind it the decaying spiral staircase has roots of myriad broken bottles from myriad drinking sessions. The church grounds are thick with eager saplings. Its steeple hangs crooked. It’s interior is a ruin. Crows nest in its rafters. Its terrace, where once men and women waited for communion in their sunday best, is another drinking spot. A pile of ash and a charred log show evidence of a fire. We drink a round of vodka.
My old friend tells me that these buildings are from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, before the first war, in this town’s glory days after it was founded, and named after the countess Constance. On the back of the church a recent detailed piece of stencil art commemorates the 1943 jewish ghetto uprising.
Looking at the art, I have a feeling of synchronisity – the flat, where we have been staying in the city, was part of the big Ghetto. From there the Polish Jews, the largest Jewish population in Europe, were contained before being sent to the death camps. Poland was once a multi cultural land, with large minorities of Jews and Gipsies. It is no longer so.
We cross a small canal where the roots of a moss covered oak tree now extend across it, forming a bridge to the estate behind – the servants quarters, the stables, all peeling wallpaper, crumbling plaster, but solid stone. The noble’s house was built to last but it too has been swallowed by the wood.
The talk of the town is of the wild boar that infest the forest and increasing the heart of the town itself. One of the residents swears that the boars are the size of Ponies. Two others tell us to be careful of being attacked by these beasts as we approached the deeper parts of the forest. And everywhere, even on the mown avenues and the grounds of the bank in the centre of town are gored into a mess of turned earth by their feeding.
As we walk along the trail leading through the wetland back toward the house of my friend, we catch a glimpse of geese migrating north. The singing of a nightingale heralds the coming evening as we walk past trees ringbarked by Beavers. We walk back, back to borscht, hot beat root soup. There is a beauty to towns like Konstancin. For though the council tries to mask it, with their electric lit mown park. Konstancin is a town partly reclaimed by the forest and therefor it is a reminder of temporal nature of civilisation and ultimately our great glass cities. For one day perhaps they too will be taken by the primordial boar infested forest. I certainly hope so.