Discover History

Discover Warsaw: Wola District Edition

Wola is one of the many districts in Warsaw that has a lot of history and stories to share. In this video/article we are going to discover the Wola gas works, the hanging gallows and much more!

Wola is a district in western Warsaw, Poland, formerly the village of Wielka Wola, incorporated into Warsaw in 1916. An industrial area with traditions reaching back to the early 19th century, it is slowly changing into an office and residential district. Several museums are located in Wola.

First mentioned in the 14th century, it became the site of the elections, from 1573 to 1764, of Polish kings by the szlachta (nobility) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Wola district later became famous for the Polish Army’s defence of Warsaw in 1794 during the Kościuszko Uprising and in 1831 during the November Uprising, when Józef Sowiński and Józef Bem defended the city against Tsarist forces.

During the Warsaw Uprising (August–October 1944), fierce battles raged in Wola. Around 8 August, Wola was the scene of the largest single massacre by German forces in Poland of 40,000 to 50,000 civilians. The area was held by Polish fighters belonging to the Armia Krajowa.

Wola Gas Works (0:00 – 0:34)

Opened in 1888, destroyed during the second world war, then rebuilt, the Wola gasworks finally closed in the early 1970s when the city switched to using natural gas. Today, part of the gasworks is a museum, but other areas, such as the rotunda, remain dilapidated.

Gasworks is not just a building; it’s also a remarkable piece of history of a working-class neighbourhood, as well as its owners and employees. Another notable attraction are two large gas tanks, regrettably left unmanaged and falling to ruin year by year. Their private owner shut the entrance, but the tanks remain the destination of illicit adventurers, music video directors and photographers looking for unusual scenery

Location: Prądzyńskiego 14A (Google Maps link)

Nazi Hanging Gallows (0:35 – 1:22)

On the night of 7th October 1942 under the darkness of night, a group of brave Polish soldiers gain access to a major train station in Wola that was being used by Nazi’s. The group wired up high-powered explosives and blew two tracks on the railway between Warsaw West and Warsaw, and the group also destroyed the track more tracks in the area. This was an important route for the Nazi’s and would impact they drastically. Preventing them from bringing supplies, but also stopping them shipping out people to concentration camps. In the same place a second patrol led by a Lieutenant, who at the same time blew the tracks that lead towards Radom (another Polish city).

Sadly, most of the brave soldiers were captured. On October 15, 1942, in a retaliation for the action, the Germans shot 39 prisoners. At dawn, another 50 prisoners were publicly hanged at five points on the outskirts of Warsaw. The aim of these hanging was to warn others.

Mszczonowska 12 is only surviving hanging gallows that you can visit today as the others were removed or destroyed. After 1945, a memorial plaque of Karol Tchorek was erected next to the gallows.

Location: Mszczonowska 12 (Google Maps link)

This location is pretty difficult to reach via public transport. We’d recommend driving there. Here are some pictures of the entrance to hopefully make it easier to find.

Original Jewish Ghetto Building (1:23 – 2:35)

This building was built in the 19th century. During the German occupation from November 1940 to August 1942, it was located in the Warsaw ghetto. Among the tenants were Wladyslaw Szlengel , famous songwriter and Jewish poet writing in Polish. The building fell in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and Menachem Kipnis who was a opera singer, photographer, journalist and Jewish ethnographer, died in the ghetto for a heart attack.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the building was inhabited. It is currently empty and is one of the few houses in the former ghetto that has survived to this day. In 2012 the buildings at ul. Waliców 10, 12, 14 and 17 were registered in the municipal register of monuments. The building is owned by the city and until 2017 no claims were filed as to owns the building or lane.

Location: Waliców 14 (Google Maps Link)

Kolonia Wawelberga (2:36 – 3:49)

Poland at times had a big class divide. The rich lived with the rich and the poor lived with the poor. One man hope to change this after being inspired by his time in England. His name was Hipolit Wawelberg

Kolonia Wawelberga was built as a housing estate for affordable housing workers in the Młynów housing estate in the Wola district. Hipolit Wawelberg who was a banker, funded the project through his own donation.

The buildings were built between 1898 and 1900 thanks to donations by Hipolit and Ludwika Wawelberg. The donation amounted was almost 500kg of pure gold! The designer of the complex was Edward Goldberg, and once built became one of the first cheap laborers’ settlements in Poland.

In addition to the residential buildings, the Kolonia Wawelberga had a laundry facilities and a school (the buildings which are no longer existing) which were available as part of the social facilities. The was also a large grass area for sports games, which has now been removed. These things such as schools and laundry might not sound like much by today’s standards, but they were only the things only the rich had access to.

Hipolit Wawelberg welcomed everyone from Jews, Muslims, Sikh, Christian to much more. He welcomed rich bankers and factory works. Hipolit Wawelberg did put some strict restrictions in place which were uncommon at the same. To live in the buildings you were not allowed to drink alcohol or be drunk. You were not allowed to keep any pets and everybody must have all the common vaccinates. These rules are no longer in place.

Location: Górczewska 15 (Goolge Maps Link)

We hope that you enjoy learning more about the Wola district of Warsaw. If you’d like to learn more about the Praga district then check our video. Let us know in the comment section what is your favorite thing about Wola



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