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Christmas presents with a difference

By NNA correspondent Cornelie Unger-Leistner

WARSAW (NNA) – Anyone who associates Christmas and Christmas markets with commercialism and the purchase of things for which you can find no earthly purpose, should go and spend a few days before Christmas in Warsaw. Because young people there have set up a Christmas market of a completely different kind: here art objects are sold which have all been made from recycled materials. The two-day Recycling Christmas Market in the Warsaw district of Praga on the left bank of the Vistula was held this year for the seventh time.

It whole atmosphere is fundamentally different from customary Christmas markets: in empty, old industrial halls, under naked light bulbs, the artists are sewing, sawing, filing and hammering away at their objects. A lively throng of people are surging from stand to stand to watch the transformation process from waste to art object as it happens.

The event is organised by the PrzeTwory (literally: “conserves”) initiative. Through its campaign, it aims to draw attention to the fact that many things that end up in the rubbish today can, with creativity, be given a new lease of life. “It is a very simple idea,” the initiative says on its Facebook page. “We collect rubbish, old furniture and recycling materials. We give it to artists whom we invite to turn these things into objects of art.” Thus pieces of foam plastic turn into diverse design objects, fire hoses become laptop bags and jewellery is created from the insides of clocks or the keys of old typewriters which have been taken to bits.

In this way an artists’ festival has developed in the old factory buildings in the last two years which is drawing increasing international attention. On its Facebook page, the initiative proudly refers to the involvement of design stars such as Anthony Lebossé from France or Tom Price from Britain in the transformation of throw-away articles into works of art alongside the Polish artists. A competition has also meanwhile been started which awards the title of “Przetwór Roku” (literally: “Conserve of the year”) to the best product. It is already considered one of the most important design awards for young artists in Poland.  

The factory halls in which PrzeTwory holds its festival lie in the Warsaw district of Praga. This traditional working class neighbourhood, a social flashpoint, has been discovered by young people in recent years and has developed into a meeting place for the alternative scene in Warsaw. Bookshops, galleries, antiquarian booksellers, and film projects have taken up residence in the abandoned industrial sites.

The model for the young people was the transformation of Berlin after the Wall came down in which a variety of cultural facilities arose in abandoned factory premises. Praga was not destroyed to the same extent as the rest of the Polish capital during the War so that the many old building give an impression of Warsaw as it was before the War. The many large tenements are, however, mostly in urgent need of renovation. The “Monopol Warszawski” organisation is also working in the district to promote tourism. Until now, however, Praga with its alternative Christmas market has tended to be an insider’s tip.


Item: 121224-01EN Date: 24 December 2012

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We wish all our readers Season's Greetings<br>Photo: Rafal Koziej (
Photo: Cornelie Unger-Leistner