Avenues of the dead

The dead line up in rows, dowsed by flowers and accompanied on the long journey into nothing by lamps, a few lit, the long-dead lacking flower or lamp. They lie in floral avenues, fighting against annihilation with gleaming marble, crosses, seats for those that grieve. They are remembered: the flowers attest to that, and so do women, gloved, with dustpan brush, sweeping leaves away and scrubbing gravestones.

But the monuments that draw my eyes are not the ones that shriek “Remember” but thinner ones of metal, or stone that looks like wood: occasionally a grave split open, or a mere few bits of masonry, inscriptions worn a way by time.

Amongst those million dead, occasional glimpses through all the grand routines of death of real people: a headstone teddy bear; a cross of lined-up chestnuts;  a humble cross of branches, white and black.

Along these avenues, a million dead. In no great cataclysm just the normal ends of life: disease, old age or accident.


Bródno cemetery, one of the largest in Europe. Covers 113.3 hectares. Contains 1.2 million graves. Consecrated in 1874. For some years cemetery for the poor. During World War II used as an arsenal by various Polish resistance organizations, and as a hiding place by those on the run from the Gestapo. Badly damaged by the Germans.

About morselsandscraps

A retired Australian who spends a lot of time in Warsaw, and blogs as a way of life.
This entry was posted in cemetery, photos, poem and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Avenues of the dead

  1. BeckyB says:

    Wow that’s a large cemetery . . . . full of so many stories.


  2. restlessjo says:

    I love the lamps, Meg. 🙂 The Polish family wanted to place some at the cemetery here for Dad, but apparently it’s illegal to do so in this country.


    • I hope you didn’t mind me posting this. I thought it might have been insensitive. Were English authorities afraid of broken glass? There were only one or two breakages in all I saw. And obviously I was mesmerised by the variety of lamps.


  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    What a fascinating and slightly bizarre place, that’s to my British eyes though. A funeral costs a lot of money here, it must be far more expensive there, some of those headstones are the size of my living room! I like the old metal crosses best, I guess they wouldn’t be considered posh enough these days.


    • I thought favourably about Australian cemeteries in the bush, or the occasional old graves beside the road, or the graveyards that preserve endangered orchids, although we do have necropolises too. At least the flowers and lamps indicate ongoing remembering, not just the splashing out on headstones. I’ll go back in a month or two when the All Saints flowers have gone and see what it looks like then. I only saw a minute part of it: I think there’s a wooden chapel somewhere, and there must be sections of old graves, if everything wasn’t tipsy-turveyed in the war.


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