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The district Żoliborz

Żoliborz is a locality that has always enraptured everybody with its beauty. Its name originates from the charm of the Vistula escarpment. The view underneath deserved the French name of JOLI BORD. The name of Żoliborz has derived from this “beautiful embankment” polonized.

Marymont, the name of another fragment of our borough has also the French origin from Marie Mont, or else Mary’s Mountain. It was at its top that  Jan III Sobieski, a Polish king famous for his defeating the Turks at Vienna, had a summer residence built for Marysieńka, his beloved wife. Today, there is erected a Catholic church dedicated to Mother of God, the Queen of Poland on the foundations of that palace. At its foot the oldest Warsaw park named Kaskada extends.

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Żoliborz is one of the smallest boroughs of Warsaw with 8,3 km² of area, 250 hectares of compact green terrains included. Given that fewer than 50 K inhabitants are its residents, 50 m² of green lungs fall to each of them. You mention  Żoliborz, and you associate  it with  green.  This is our main feature.

The Northern border is made up by the Kaskada Park which remembers the times of Jan III Sobieski and the AK Route. From the South, the Citadel spreads out. In the East, you can see the Vistula and its embankment belt. The Powązki Cementary and the post-industrial areas make up its western borders. Żoliborz has good transport connections with other boroughs of Warsaw. It takes only 5 to 7 minutes to get to the City centre or to any of the commercial centres located in the neighbouring district. And Arkadia which is just round the corner is treated by many as a part of  Żoliborz.

The boom of Żoliborz occurred between 1919 and 1939. A housing estate was built at the wilderness of the Citadel’s esplanade as a monument to the independent Polish State. The dynamics and the creativity of those years had no equal throughout Warsaw. What was erected at that time, has been inspiring us up to these days. The idea of town-garden implemented with great invention at Officers’ (Oficerski) Żoliborz is imposing.

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Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński wrote many years ago In Żoliborz, there are so lovely streets…. Władysław Szpilman admired these words and owing to that Deszczowa piosenka (The Rain Song) with Żoliborz at the background was composed. Every noon the first tunes of this melody are chimed by a carillon on the Żoliborz Townhall. These words veil the admiration for the charm of small streets drowned in greenery, smelling with flowers, decorated with original architecture arising from native traditions. Antoni Libera had his saying also when he quite recently said: “Fortunately for Warsaw it has Żoliborz”. This allegation contains a load of emotion, attachment and sentiment to the place which managed to overstand the test of time. In spite of the lapse of years, Żoliborz has maintained its cameral nature. It has not surrendered to the fashion of becoming large. Here, you will not find skyscrapers or gigantic supermarkets. Turning into one of its streets, we leave behind the metropolitan noise and enter into the world of a calm province, full of charm. Many families have been residing here for generations and amongst the inhabitants we can find the names well known in Poland. Although it is already the 21st century, Żoliborz remains itself. A small borough, nice and friendly to its residents and guests. This place has a magic stronger than anywhere else. Here, you can find the climate which gives creative inspiration to artists and quite ordinary bread-eaters.

The second clear trend is a cooperative multi-family housing: flats: simple, functional, accessible to people of limited means, squares and playgrounds, internal courtyards, places of rest. The idea was not only to live, but also to co-create the local community integrated, inter alia, by the surroundings, the environment. This is where the legend was born – the Warsaw Housing Cooperative. Jarosław Abramow staged its magnificent statue  in the award-winning book, The Lions of my Yard (Lwy mojego podwórka).

Expressive features of Żoliborz have been created by its intellectual character, as evidenced by the historical names of its housing estates: Officers’ Żoliborz, Clerical Żoliborz, Journalist Żoliborz and by the strong local patriotism not to be seen anywhere else in Warsaw. This is caused by many families  living here for many generations, treating the place like their homeland. Living in Żoliborz is a source of pride, which is something of a positively understood snobbery. Among its residents can be found names more frequently known throughout the country than in other parts of Warsaw. Kazimierz Brandys, in one cycle of essays Letters to Ms. Z. (Listy do Pani Z.) attempted to define the concept of a żoliborzanin (Żoliborz resident) based on well shaped and recognizable attitudes of the inhabitants.

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Today’s Żoliborz has, on the one hand, 18 schools and 6 thousand students, 3 universities, 11 kindergartens and three research institutes. Nearly 35 % of the population have university education. But, on the other hand, nearly 30 % of them are people of retirement age. A new phenomenon is the growing number of young people living single.   
We would like them to have families and stay with us.

The underground is a pulse generator for the dynamic development of the district which it crosses from south to north. Banks were the first to notice it. Until recently, within a 100 meters from the ŻoliborzTown hall, there dominated  books – you could count 11 points of sale there. Today, banks caught up with them. In the same area, there have been already 12 located. And at a moment, the Wilson’s Square was maliciously called the " bank square ". Fortunately, those days are over, because in a short time in the Wilson’s Square, in its surroundings, but also in other places in Żoliborz, a new fashion appeared to promote the culture - spontaneous, but also inspired. First, through tendering, targeted by the self-government, and then, also the initiative of individuals. Cafes with an interesting range of cultural offer, clubs, galleries - already a lot to choose from. Let’s hope for this fashion to last.        

The transition period meant for Żoliborz the decrepitude of its southern part, where the industry was located. Today, post-industrial areas have become huge construction sites. The first buildings have been already occupied. In the next ten years, a modern city will be built there with over twenty thousand inhabitants. We believe that the integration of this new enclave with the  Historical Żoliborz will result in an interesting social effect.       

Major facilities:

  • The Shrine of St. Stanislaus Kostka, the resting place of Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko
  • The Citadel of the Museum of the Polish Army under construction.
  • The Sokolnicki Fort as an example of object with a grim past, becoming friendly, to be used by the population.    
  • The Olympic Centre as a place for the Olympic education.      
  • The Katyń Museum as a place of remembrance for the victims of the Soviet crimes