If you would like to buy a copy of this book
click here


A Taste Of Freedom
Free Dom squatted community centre in Poland

"FREE DOM" in Wroclaw, Poland, is an autonomous cultural centre, set up in the heart of the Polish community. "Free Dom" ("dom" means "house" in Polish) began life in the middle of the 1990s, when a group of friends squatted a small house (called "REJON 69") near the centre of Wroclaw. During the next three and a half years the group formed a small community and organised a range of cultural and political events, like punk concerts, festivals, and regular 'food not bombs' events. In 1999, they were forced out by bailiffs, police and the local authority.

The next building they squatted only lasted two weeks, but important ties were being created and an 'eviction party' elicited considerable support from the local (Jewish) community and brought the squatting issue into the media spotlight for the first time. After a big campaign, demonstrations, leafleting and expressions of support from residents, the local authority handed the building over to the squatters in September 2000.

Despite its dilapidated condition the house was opened, after a year of repairs, in the spring of 2001. In place of the ruins were an alternative library, an info cafe, a dark room, silk screen printing and spaces for art gallery exhibitions, cinema and concert rooms.

Acts like Citizen Fish, Catharsis, Sin Dios, Tragedy, and many local bands have played there. Every Sunday there is 'Food not Bombs' event which gives squatters a chance to skillshare, provide food and eat together with local homeless people and socialise.

This also creates scope to engage with local people who have been made aware of a resistance to the new demands of capitalism on a country that had no motorways before 1996 and some of Europe's last great forests. Now, however, there is a new 126km road between Wroclaw and Nogawczyce - part of the Trans European Network and built by a consortium of British firms headed by WS Atkins.

'Free Dom' plan to start a local newspaper to give out independent information, promote alternatives to capitalism and provide more opportunities for community involvement.

They have started activities with the city kids, who have made the building their own. Together with their parents they hold parties and feasts, games and painting for children.

Also part of the plan is to begin an after school programme where kids can get help with homework and spend their time creatively with juggling, theatre, and photography workshops.

One resident explained the purpose of the centre: "The idea and function of the cultural centre is to be a place where people can come, without money, and realise non profit projects/ ideas, or just have a place to meet. This house is the only legal place like this in the city." Co-operation with other squatter groups is essential for the survival of all. With the World Bank eyeing up the silverware and describing Poland as 'one of the most advanced transition countries in the region' (ie: it's flogging everything), it is time for the local groups to radicalise and work together to ensure their mutual futures.

In November they hosted a congress for Polish autonomous groups and are trying to build a support network across Poland, particularly for those affected by Polish law which does not recognise squatters' rights. Police are often aggressive and bribes are accepted currency to delay eviction. 'Free Dom' is a legal centre and doesn't have the same problems as other groups attempting to reclaim old buildings as community spaces. However, because they are 'legal they have to fulfil bureaucratic rules as laid down by fire, police, building and government inspectors.

Many of these rules are absurd and unachievable because the activists don't have enough money to pay the bribes (and don't want to). This curtails the organisation of events and work with children. It could also lead to the eventual closure of the building.

Support is needed, especially from abroad. Said a resident: "When the local government see that some international groups and individuals supports us, it will help us in negotiations." You can send letters of support to: Free Dom, ul.Jagiellonczyka 10d, 50-240 Wroclaw, Poland.

E-mail: freedom69@go2.pl

A direct letter expressing support to the City Government (Wroclaw) Fax: +48 71 344 78 29 would also help.

For more information go to: www.ainfos.ca