Krakow's Planty - a Place to Grow Up

Krakow fared better under Austrian rule than Warsaw under Russian rule.  The Austrians modernized the city by introducing running water, electricity and the first electric streetcars (1901) long before Warsaw.  

The crumbling original city walls of Krakow were torn down in 1807, and the unsightly moat filled in.  By the 1820’s the area was converted to a beautiful  52-acre park known as the Planty, that encircles downtown Krakow. The greenbelt not only defines the original town, but adds to the town’s charm and beauty.  It’s filled with 100-year old chestnut trees, lighted walking paths, benches and monuments.  A walk around the entire park is about 2.5 miles and begins and ends at Wawel Castle overlooking the Vistula River.

I never knew my father, Vincenty Zguda.  In 1918 World War I ended and he came home to Krakow. He served in the Austrian Army and spent a lot of time in the trenches near the Po River in Italy.  In the trenches soldiers spent their time in mud, water and rain with mosquitoes big as birds flying around.  He came home with malaria. One day he jumped off the bed and fell on the floor with the shakes, like what we would call a seizure.  My mother Karolina didn’t know what to do so she called for help.  Some orderlies finally came and took him to some hospital in Berlin.  My mother either forgot or they never told her.  We never heard from the authorities and we never saw him again. 

My mother was a very tough lady from the mountains.  She came from the Gorale people, a peasant people from the southern mountains of Poland.  Goralen are tough, independent people.  She survived, and I survived.  I have her facial features, sort of dark with a big nose.  But she was very short and I am very tall (over 6 feet) and thin. You know Henry is my American spelling.  In Poland my name was spelled as “Henryk.”  My mother and friends called me the more familiar “Henui.” 
Until I was about seven we lived with my aunt, uncle and cousins – seven people in a two-room apartment. Eventually my mom got a job in the state tobacco factory and then we moved into a small apartment.
I was very lonely.  My mother worked every day to 5 pm. The loneliness  made me look for friends on the Planty. There it happened that all my friends were without fathers; only sons with mothers working.  You might say I was just a street kid.  – Henry Zguda

Next posts – Games of a street boy

(Photo courtesy of from Krakow Life. Map courtesy of Krakow-info.)

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