Great people lived in interwar Brest and we’ve seen them in the first part. Now it’s time to walk around the city: take a look at its architecture, various institutions, roads and construction works of that time. Let’s go.

As usual, all of the photos are provided by the National Digital Archive of Poland. Let’s thank them for that.


The Regional Audit Office, April 1928. One thing in Brest that you notice first is the large number of fences.

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A landmark of Brest: the Bank of Poland building with a fence and a security guard. It’s not entirely clear what’s the purpose of the four small poles on the road: doesn’t seem like they are of any use to anybody.

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Same building from a different angle. To its left, an anti-German demonstration was held on 12 October 1930 on the green wasteland. We’ve seen it in the first part. You can notice a renovation of the building in the background. The street itself is made out of paving stone while the sidewalk has a couple of large tiles on it. The rickety wooden poles and wastelands behind the fence create a very relaxed atmosphere.

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Year not specified but on this picture, the same place looks tidier: the grass is under control now, no more rickety poles. The renovation of the building is done and there is a path to the Bank instead of plain grass.

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A little further we have the Treasury Chamber. And again we have fences: the large wooden and the small near the building (‘don’t walk on the grass!’). Bars on the tiny windows of the basement floor are another interesting thing on the picture. The city is quite empty despite the fact that it is the center. Notice the wasteland between the Bank and the Chamber where residents had a demonstration in 1930.

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On this shot, this wasteland is built up. This totalitarian-looking building is actually the city hall. The street is not so deserted anymore: many pedestrians, cars, carts, cyclists. You can even see a parked bike near the entrance. Another interesting detail is the drainage that is connected to the sewer right away and does not flood the sidewalk.

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Old shots sometimes look like paintings due to their manual processing. The black-and-white city hall looks even more depressing in the winter.

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The military prison wing in September 1930. At least the fence here is justified.

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A bridge near the prison, September 1930

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Let’s go back to the city center for a moment. This is how the railway station looked like in 1930. Why there’s so much empty space in front of the building? The parking lot for the carts? Other details: interesting lantern, walking paths near the building on the right and lots of fences!

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The road to the Brest Fortress, 1930

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The same road only here it is marked with stones, 1930

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The northern gate of the Fortress in 1930: stones on the road and a beautiful green roof

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Inside the gate, 1930

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This is a classic postcard view of the Brest Fortress. It’s very unusual to see the Fortress undamaged.

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A modest garrison church with cannons on the steps and overgrown grass

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Though its interior is not that modest

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Another church but it’s not the most interesting thing in the photo: take a look at the two fences near the church. It’s also interesting that there are three entrances to the territory but only one is open. What was the point in planning the other two entrances? Doesn’t look like a car or a cart will pass there. For some reason, this type of logic is very popular in Eastern Europe (e. g. Belarus, Russia) — planning lots of doors and entrances and using (or keeping opened) only one. The photo is an example of a poorly designed space: lots of fences and a wasteland.

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A hotel and the St. Nicholas Brotherly Church, years 1921–1939. It feels like it’s a wide pedestrian street in the city center — no distinction between the roadway and the sidewalk is visible.

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A hospital in Brest in the years 1920–1939. Several details are noteworthy. Obviously the fences. Especially the tall one that guards the hospital and feels like a wall. It’s actually higher than the woman that walks by with children. Also, the trees are severely cut. The last detail is the drain pipe. Notice how elegant it is.

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Compare it with this school building in 1920. Drain pipes are simpler here but the building benefits from large windows and good looking doors. Although the rickety sign, one broken drain pipe and broken (or not?) windows leave the impression that the building is abandoned.

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Another city hall. Or perhaps it’s the old city hall? No year is mentioned. Interesting window sills that look like roof tiles.

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The power plant in Brest. Probably the only place in the city where a fence is justified. Oh, and the prison, of course.

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Its interior. Notice the tiles on the floor.

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The cozy neighborhood where civil servants lived in April 1931

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Again the station but this time in a better quality. What a beautiful building! As I assumed, the empty square is used as a parking lot.

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Note that by 21 July 1932 two signs ‘Brest Central’ were added on both the left and right wings of the building.

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A residential house near the station. I’ll suggest it’s a house for the employees of the railroad. Who’d else want to live by the rails with all that noise?

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Regulation of the Bug river, 1932. General view.

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And in detail

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Construction of the bridge on the Muchaviec river, years 1920–1939

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And a steam pile driver there

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Not the best panorama of the city but it’s better than none

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Office building of the Polesie Land Reclamation Project. Notice the drainpipe that drains water into the sewer. Even today not every building in Belarus has such a sophisticated system.

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The building of the Polesie Police in November 1935. At the entrance to the building there’s a sign: ‘Kindergarten of the Police Family Association.’

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I’d love to go on but history has its own plans on Brest. On this shot, we have Germans that are crossing the river in Brest on 21 September 1939. One day before the famous ‘parade’ with the Soviet troops in the captured city. World War II has begun and Poland is divided by Germany and the Soviet Union.

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The triumph was short-lived. Soon the former Soviet ally will attack the Soviet Union itself and Brest, Belarus and the whole Eastern Europe will again face war. On the photo we have Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini both looking at the captured Brest Fortress, August 1941.

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That was it with interwar Brest. Fortunately, many places are recognizable and the Second World War didn’t wipe the city of its rich architectural heritage which was developed by different cultures at different times. Though, the war did leave us deep scars that remind us of it.

EN-Stefan-Vanli-S70

Stefan Vanli

Editor

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Warsaw

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