Aleja Brzozowa (Alley of Birches) in the allotment gardens at the southern end of Pole Mokotowskie.

Despite having lived in this area for almost three years and wandered it through and through, I discovered this sanctuary only a few weeks ago secreted in between the Russian Cemetery Park and Pole Mokotowskie.

The allotments (Ogrodki dzialkowe) of Warsaw have a long and colourful history, and are one of the city’s more redeeming features. Almost 5% (1,700 hectares) of Warsaw's city surface is given over to allotments. The first ‘dzialki’ were set up before the war when the Polish Socialist Party put forwards an initiative to form ‘special workers’ oases of peace’. Where the likes of London gradually lost hers to property developers (inner city London was covered with them following WWII) Warsaw has retained hers most emphatically, governed by an allotment cooperative to protect and conserve them.

The district of Mokotow is particularly blessed with these green areas which teem with all manner of life be it animal, vegetable or mineral. During the Communist era, and as part of a remit to have people ‘grow their own’, most of the ‘dzialki’ were allocated to professional groups such as teachers, railway workers or miners. An allotment ‘parcel’ was a symbol of a certain status. More importantly, it was a gurantee of a regular food supply since buying certain foods at stores was not always possible. In effect, it was a form of collective and responsible living which is still vigorously continued to this day.

Sadly, most allotment gardens are closed to the public. However, there are certain gardens which have public throughways like this one. Personally, I have never found it a problem to gain entry to these places. With a little patience and a well-aimed smile (and some very bad Polish), you can be surprised at what you can gain access to!

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