A WARSAW WINTER ROOST: The Groves & Graves of the Soviet Military Cemetery.

For its space, its wildlife, and its silence there are few places (in any city) that could rival the sheer serenity of Mokotow's Soviet Military Cemetery. It is true that, especially over the last few months of jogging through the cemetery every morning, I have developed a special bond with the place.

Winter is particularly alluring when the whole complex, save for a few stray couples and a few feeding hands, remains more or less depopulated. You might be forgiven for thinking the cemetery to be in state of suspended animation, and sitting the winter out as patiently and quietly as possible. Yet, such hibernation could not be further from the truth. The activity is all the more pronounced: squirrels are squirreling away, tits and sparrows are gathering and eating anything they can get their tiny claws and beaks on, and the resident hooded crows strut about like they own the place. In December there is an influx of waxwings and fieldfares from the north who make the most of the buckthorn, rowan and mistletoe berries which, thanks to the cemetery being almost surrounded by shrub-filled allotments, exist in prodigious quantities. This is to say nothing of the thousands of Siberian rooks who make the groves around the graves their home for the several months over winter. Before going to roost in the late afternoon, the rooks have a tendency to congregate in the vacant field between the groves and the new 'luxury apartment' complex currently being thrown up to the east of the cemetery towards Woloska. At times, such is their number, the grass in patches looks as if its black. Some birds will take to the treetops earlier than others, normally at around 3.30pm with the rest following as the light fades. For the hour between 3 and 4, their wheeling through the sky and their raucous squawking is something special in Warsaw's city scene. Indeed, if it weren't for the scaffolding and the cranes opposite and the lights of the already completed apartments I might think myself in full country.

It is this, the adrenalin of nature, whether the trill of a hundred waxwings atop the tendrils of a silver birch or a great community of rooks and jackdaws celebrating in the twilight (and the lack of man who has, to his own detriment, gradually removed himself from these proceedings) that renders the cemetery such a peaceful place.

This is survival. Super-life and super-living. At its rawest.

Below is a quick 25 second video clip of the birds going to roost. It was taken at around 4pm on Saturday 3rd January, 2009. Though effectively a 'video' I much prefer the term 'audio'.

1 comment:

crowcity said...

Fantastic stuff - many thanks for posting this :>