I have Łódź in my heart
I am happy that still in my lifetime, I will be able to see a completely different Łódź. It is a great joy to be able to live to see it happen. It is a great joy to be part of this. We are fantastic people who just had some hard time. Łodź must be going as in sport: no complexes, self-confidence, and a go-ahead approach. Everything will work out – writes Artur PARTYKA
It is trendy to compare Łódź to Detroit, as both cities are said to have much in common: a time of glory, then failure, and now reconstruction. Someone has wisely wrote that the time Detroit went through when going bankrupt was experienced by Łódź at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. I perfectly remember when suddenly all the chimneys, one by one, stopped smoking, people stopped coming out from their homes. There was no work, the manufacturing market fell down. No other region in Poland did suffer so much from the regime transformation.
It took almost two decades for Łódź to get up off the knees owing to creativity and resourcefulness of its people.
In the last eight-ten years, we have made strides in terms of infrastructure, but there are still enough work for the next two decades. The revitalisation of the city centre is pending. I expect that surroundings of the Łódź Fabryczna train station will get a thorough makeover in two or three years’ time. I am reading and hearing about massive investments being planned. Łódź is finally receiving substantial funds. Recently, one of the big banks announced that it would employ a thousand people in its Łódź hub. All these decisions are economically reasonable. They are based on long-term calculations.
When we organise Orlen Cup and talk to hoteliers, they tell us they have been seeing increased traffic over the past two years. A lot of large domestic companies organise corporate trainings in Łódź because the city is at the very heart of Poland. Apart from geographical location, another huge asset is the northward leg of A1 motorway that brought Łódź closer to the sea and other distant parts of Poland.
More and more people take a liking to this city. Łódź is people, people above all. It has a specific climate, perhaps because of a world-famous filmmaking school, perhaps also because of a proximity of Warsaw. It often happens to me to make appointments in Warsaw. One hour on a train, then a meeting, and my way back – the whole adventure takes less than three hours. I do not actually feel like making a trip at all.
For a long time, the city’s major problem was that while there were many students, only few would decide to settle in Łódź. We lacked incentives to prevent them from leaving. Now Łódź stands a chance of becoming attractive to graduates. The proximity of Warsaw, the central location, competitive living costs – all these factors should persuade young people to stay there, pay taxes, invest money. This is like a whole chain – you have to come up with events, attractions, incentives to encourage them.
We had a great time before Kraków got itself Tauron Arena. The world’s greatest music stars would come to Łódź back then, and our Atlas Arena attracted people from all over Poland. Now Kraków has Tauron Arena, Warsaw – PGE Narodowy, and Gliwice will soon have its stadium, too. Łódź must better exploit its central location of Łódź, put more effort into promoting its arena, because the competition is not sleeping.
The city itself has really changed. When we organised our first meeting in Łódź three years ago, a huge ditch rather than a street was crossing the city centre. Road works and other makeovers were in full swing, so it was hard to imagine how it would look like in the end. We had horrible logistical problems, Łódź was traffic-jammed. Now, some of these strategic renovations are already completed, including the east-west route and the train station.
You can see a dynamic revitalisation unfold, a string of nice places and whole face-lifted urban spaces. A comprehensive visual makeover of city is very likely to occur. For me, it is symptomatic that only two years ago, when I was meeting someone from outside Łódź, I would choose a place by the road leading out of the city to avoid forcing my way into the centre. Now there is absolutely no such need.
Many associate Łódź with sport, also with my person. Lots of people admire Łódź for volleyball, rugby, athletics. A number of sports individualities identify themselves with this city. I am myself a child of Łódź’s sport. I came to live in Łódź in 1975. One of those who speak frequently and warmly about his home town is Marcin Gortat; he does commit himself. Adam Kszczot had a rash of interesting proposals, but remains so attached to Łódź. Jurek Janowicz, who now shines on the courts all over the world, has Łódź in his heart. Zbyszek Boniek played Juventus, but his first steps were with Widzew Łódź. By the way, the third-league Widzew has sold 15,000 tickets for this season, making it the best result in Poland. Neither Lech Poznań nor Wisła Kraków have sold as many, though both belong to the premier league. And finally my beloved ŁKS, a club I was bound with for twenty years.
I believe sport has a great potential in terms of promoting Łódź. It would be fantastic if sport was somehow used as a part of a city strategy. A graceful part, let’s add.
You may think that I see it my way. But many places in the world tell their story through sport. Would anyone hear of a tiny Villarreal near Valencia were it not for a famous football club? In Germany and France, many localities have made capital out of spectacular sporting achievements. With athletics competition organised in Łódź (previously in Bydgoszcz and Opoczno), this discipline may well develop into a brand into Łódź, especially since the city is a crucial and friendly partner of the show.
Sport taught me that there is no reason to have complexes. I am a big fan of our capabilities, talents, resourcefulness.
In Łódź, we really do not have anything to be ashamed of. We can work hard, we are inventive, active and smart. Sport taught me that. I still remember the days when I trained in the cold, in Spała, when I could barely scrape together money for spikes, for tracksuits. But when it came to fighting, anything else lost significance. What mattered was a cross, a rivalry.
The fight itself for Expo 2022 proves that we have aspirations, the course, the strategy, the courage. It is good that state authorities are engaged too, another proof that we are not alone to see the potential of Łódź.
I remember coming to Łódź as a child with my mother and grandmother. We were driving from Tomaszów’s side. Now that road does not resemble what it was in the past, perhaps one building from that time remained. I am happy that still in my lifetime, I will be able to see a completely different Łódź. Just 15-20 years more. It is a great joy to be able to live to see it happen. It is a great joy to be part of this. We are fantastic people who just had some hard time. Łodź must be going as in sport: no complexes, self-confidence, and a go-ahead approach. Everything will work out. Everything will work out.
In February, Tomek Majewski came up for Orlen Cup to comment the show on TV. He revealed that he could not refuse, because he wanted to see the Łódź Fabryczna train station so much. “Chapeau bas, Warsaw’s Central can’t hold a candle to it,” he said.