I’m slowly working my way through Warsaw parks as I was through Eurobodalla beaches in that other life: there are nearly as many of them too.
Park Dreszera is a mere two tram stops away, a formal park filling a block, slightly overgrown. As I walk through the side gate, I’m amused by the list of things you can’t do. There are a number of people around on this sunny late morning: frail old women with walking sticks and a sturdier companion; mothers and babcias with prams; the inevitable mobile phone chatterers; gardeners surrounded by overturned pots and newly planted flowers sitting on a bench and chatting; and a group of bag-men talking loudly near the entrance.
Oh, and this ambling photographer, dropping to her knees or stepping across hedges in search of a good shot. There is plenty to draw the camera: a fountain, plentiful benches slowly drowning in greenery, urns, an Uprising monument, flowers and leaves, and a pigeon with a very brown eye.
I cross the busy road to the wild side, where a dilapidated building is a sign of things to come, if nature can ever be called dilapidated. The parkland here is unpaved and longish-grassed. Where it drops away over the escarpment there are only steep narrow dirt tracks. I share this space with a crowd of old men with their big plastic bags of possessions; a pair of teenage lovers; a mother wheeling a pram and talking on her mobile; and a heavily tattooed cyclist. I can hear the plock of tennis balls, a magisterial voice making pronouncements in a schoolyard, the whoosh of traffic, and birdsong. Soon there will be the heavenly smell of lime tree blossom. There are of course trunks to photograph and a twisted tree. As I leave, I notice boulders systematically placed, with information panels and the familiar icon, a green eagle, that announces a monument of nature. The interest in geology left behind in Australia is reawakened in Warsaw by pink granite.
Everywhere in Warsaw there are things that add snippets to my knowledge of the complexities of Polish history and items to my list of things I need to know more about. This park is named for Gustaw Konstanty Orlicz-Dreszer (October 2, 1889 − July 16, 1936), a Polish general, and a political and social activist. Before WW 1 he was involved in pro-independence activities in partitioned Poland. On 3 August 1914, at the outset of the war, he was mobilised as a reserve officer in a Russian hussar regiment. On 14 August, he deserted and crossed the front line. From 1914 to 1917 he served in the 1st Brigade of the Polish Legions. He was arrested during the Oath Crisis of 1917, a facet of history that I’ve encountered more than once recently, and died flying a plane too low over the Baltic in 1936.