Michał Rembas - interview with writer from Szczecin
Written by Unity Line   

‘I always look at Szczecin as if I was there for the first time’

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Interview with Michał Rembas, a feature writer and historian; author of such volumes as ‘Cuda na fasadach’ – Façades of Wonders, ‘Cmentarz w szczególe’ – Cemetery Details, or ‘Podziemny Szczecin’ – Szczecin Underground.

Kinga Rabińska: Szczecin is…

Michał Rembas: My whole world. I have been living here since I was seven and the experience of moving to a new place at such a young age spiked up my curiosity. I want to see what I haven't seen and experience what I have not.

KR: Who did you want to become as a young boy?

MR: I have wanted to be a historian since the first grade. My mother had to come to school one day because the psychologist was concerned with my drawing of a man on a pole. He thought it strange but it was just a monument of Mieszko I of Poland.

KR: Monuments are with you till this day.

MR: That's true. When visiting various towns, I first go to a cemetery. Old necropoleis are what is left after people long gone. Details and art, symbolism and greenery. Several years ago, the Kobusowie and I published an album ‘Nekropolie. Zabytkowe cmentarze wielokulturowej Polski’ – Necropoleis. Historic cemeteries of the multicultural Poland. Then, I focused on the Central Cemetery in Szczecin. It is a real pearl and a big one. It's the largest such structure in Poland. This resulted in Cemetery Details, where I investigate the symbolism on tombstones and headstones.

KR: Your next project, Façades of Wonders is about details and symbolism as well? What can we find on the façades of tenement houses in Szczecin?

MR: Everything. People, animals, things, gods, genre scenes. The 19th century Szczecin town centre is full of beautiful details. Typically they are decorations but sometimes they signify the former function of the building. That's why I take photographs, catalogue, and try to decipher the details.

KR: That cannot be easy…

MR: It is not but my cemetery experience helped a lot. I also sought assistance from experts; sometimes in really odd places like the North American Indian Museum or ZOO in Płock.

KR: What were you looking for in the ZOO?

MR: I tried to identify the monkey on a tenement house at the Odrodzenia Street. It turned out to be made up of various species with human body proportions. I discover new interesting facts all the time. There are two volumes of Façades of Wonders published and I think there will be a third one in a few years.

KR: You have been your own publisher for some time now. Does it give you independence?

MR: There are advantages and drawbacks to this. But it is liberating in a sense; I set the deadlines and choose people I want to work with. Plus, I can put my name on the final result with a clear conscience.

 

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KR: You not only describe Szczecin but also show people around it. What ‘off the trail’ locations are worth discovering?

MR: I became a city guide to show people what I write about. That's why I sincerely recommend the Central Cemetery and other forgotten necropoleis in Szczecin. I also appreciate old Pogodno, a former Westend, which was an attempt to build a ‘garden city’. A green-trail walk from Różanka to the Jasne Błonia square is another recommendable activity. If you're looking for Szczecin in a nutshell, go to the top of the National Museum's Dialogue Centre ‘Przełomy’, which offers a view of the former seat of the House of Griffins, 18th century Royal Gate, 20th century building housing a police station with a wonderful Saint Gorge motif, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul – the oldest one in Szczecin, and the modern Philharmonic Hall. You can experience almost the entire history of the city from one place.