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Jakob Ehrensvärd | profile | all galleries >> Ruins of despair >> Another abandoned viscose factory tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Another abandoned viscose factory

The abandoned synthetic fiber factory WISTOM in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland is a truly massive sight. Once the largest factory of its kind in Eastern Europe, the entire site is today just vast littered land littered with rubble, abandoned and demolished buildings. Various demolition teams are working with determination all around the site and the feeling of showing up some five years too late is there again - Tarde venientibus ossa - but after some five hours of exploration, one runs out of steam anyway. Or maybe it's just me getting older...

These chemical fiber plants really show an interesting and representative pattern of economic- and technical development as well as the effects of globalization. One compelling example in the very small scale is Sweden's once largest viscose plant ( ). Once a substitution industry sector protected by wartime shortages, it massively expanded in the post-WWII era, often introducing new inventions such as fibers made out of polyamide, acrylic and polyester. With liberalization of world trade and abandonment of protecting tariffs, life became increasingly difficult for the small guys in rich countries during the 1970s. Topped with the deadly cocktail of increasing wages, steeply increasing energy costs and tightening environmental standards, the outcome was given. Supply was overtaken by mega-plants, such as this one in Italy ( ) and this one in Poland.

But – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. Today's marketplace with a textile industry that largely has moved towards Asia, the landscape has changed completely. Facing basically the same mechanisms that once killed the small guy here in Sweden, even these European giants went under during the structural changes in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The height of the chimneys reflects the true nature of this industry which is nasty indeed and one can just try to imagine what it must have been to live in this area some twenty years ago. Apart from the heat generation that of course was fired with domestic coal, some particularly evil process chemicals are used, such as highly toxic carbon disulfide. Together with liberal use of sulphuric acid, there is still an omnipresent sour- and rotten smell in the darkness of the premises that almost make you throw up. Again, one can just guess how it was when the plant was in full operation and it all seeped out everywhere or went up through the smoke stacks...

The environment is a large winner (well, at least here in Europe...), but the fate of the WISTOM plant is tragic as it was once the workplace for some 12,000 people back in the 1980s. The highly inefficient and polluting plant simply had no chance to survive on a free market when Poland became a market economy during the 1990s. The apparent socio-economic turmoil that must have followed the collapse seems grim indeed. Without arguing the miracle Poland has gone through, there certainly are losers that probably look back on a brighter past that for them ended some twenty years ago. One can just wonder what thoughts go through the minds of the workers that spent their youth in this factory. Watching this giant area slowly but steadily being demolished and wiped out. The giant striped chimneys have now been reduced to three and it seems to be a matter of time before they also will be blasted. The skyline of Tomaszów Mazowiecki will never be the same again...
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