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Palace of Culture and Science

Palace of Culture and Science was the highest building in the country for a long time. It is 237 meters high and was recently pushed to the second position by the Varso Tower. It has 42 floors and 3288 rooms. Opened in 1955, it was Stalin’s gift to the people of Poland. It is associated with both bad and good moments in the history of Poland. Over the years, it was the venue for most important and prestigious events and hosted many famous and acknowledged figures. Nowadays, it houses, among others, the Museum of Technology with the Planetarium, cinema "Kinoteka", theatre, the Dollhouse Museum, and the Congress Hall. If you wish, you can get to the 30th floor and admire the beautiful panorama of Warsaw from the viewing terrace.

Beginnings of the Palace of Culture and Science

The Culture Palace was officially opened on July 21st, 1955. At the time, its formal name was Joseph Stalin's Palace of Culture and Science. It was Stalin who originated the construction of the building. His name was removed from the official name of the palace two years later as a result of the so-called Polish thaw - the illusory withdrawal from Stalinist repressions. The Palace was opened to the public one day after the official inauguration - on July 22nd, 1955. On that day, it was visited by 20,000 people. The first institutions installed in the Palace back in 1954 were the Polish Army House Theater, Puppet Theater "Lalka" and the Museum of Technology. Sometime later, the Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Social Sciences, and the Extramural University of Marxism and Leninism received their office spaces in the building. Also, the Palace of the Youth started operating in the building. It was a cultural center for children and teenagers, where they could pursue their hobbies, such as swimming, dancing, theater, music, or arts and crafts. This community center still operates nowadays. Over decades, new institutions and companies moved into the Culture Palace. These were among others: editorial offices of popular magazines, The Press and Book Club, Goethe Institute, and even a shopping mall.

 

Political events in the Palace of Culture and Science

The Palace of Culture and Science is associated with many political events. Some communists' celebrations took place here, for example, an academy dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin in 1960. Also, several congresses of the communist Polish United Workers' Party were hosted here. October 1956 was an important month not only for the Palace but for the entire country. On October 27th, 1956, a great rally took place at Plac Defilad, at which Władysław Gomułka, the new First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party, received enormous support of the Varsovians due to the Polish thaw, also known as "the Gomulka thaw". In 1981, several protests organized by the Solidarity movement took place in the Palace. On December 13th, martial law was declared in Poland. On each floor, armed soldiers could be seen on the stairs and corridors. The Congress Hall, the observation deck, and the exhibitions were closed. There were no symposia, lectures, or conferences. The life of the Palace was limited solely to the administration and office activities of the building's users. Cultural activities were resumed in January 1982. Occasional events took place in the Palace, without the participation of the most outstanding artists who boycotted the introduction of the martial law.

 

Cultural events, anniversaries and incidents in the Palace of Culture and Science

The palace was the venue for many cultural and social events, for example: concerts and recitals, Warsaw Beauty Peagants, numerous exhibitions and fairs (for example International Book Fairs), national celebrations, anniversaries, music festivals, fashion shows, film premieres (for example the famous Polish films "Nights and Days" in 1970 and "Academy of Mr. Kleks" in 1983), award galas, balls (for example on New Year's Eves or during carnival season), or even a Muslim service. Many famous musicians performed in the Palace. In 1967 The Rolling Stones played twice in the Congress Hall. Crowds of teenagers stormed the entrances. Candelabra and glass cases were smashed. In 1995, the Congress Hall welcomed Luciano Pavarotti. The tickets were so expensive, that only the richest people could afford to enjoy his concert. Other artists who performed in the Culture Palace are Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Shakin Stevens, a french singer Dalida, German-American singer and actress Marlena Dietrich, French composer and singer Gilbert Becaud, the first lady of jazz Ella Fitzgerald, French singer and actress Juliette Greco, British band „Brotherhood of Man”, Julio Iglesias, Boney M, Jan Kiepura and Mieczyslaw Fogg. 

The Palace hosted many world-famous figures, such as the astronaut Jurij Gagarin, Secretary-General of the United Nations U. Thant, the first woman-astronaut Walentyna Tiereszkowa, a famous model Naomi Campbell, Nobel laureate Gunter Grass, and David Copperfield.

On New Year's Eve in 2000, a concert for the Varsovians was organized at Plac Defilad in front of the Palace. Over 80,000 celebrated at the square that night. Five minutes before midnight, the Millennium Clock was unveiled on the 40th floor, the largest clock of this type in Europe. Plac Defilad has remained the venue for New Year's celebrations in Warsaw. 

In 1987, the 72nd World Esperanto Congress was inaugurated in the Palace. Ludwik Zamenhof's (the creator of Esperanto language) grandson - Ludwik Zaleski-Zamenhof, was one of the guests. The Congress was one of the largest events that took place in the Palace - 6 thousand people from all around the world participated. In 1995, the famous Polish folk dance group „Mazowsze” celebrated their jubilee in the Congress Hall. 

The Palace is also known for acknowledging important anniversaries or ongoing events and milestones. In 1991, a ceremony commemorating the 49th anniversary of the transportation of Janusz Korczak with 200 children to the Treblinka extermination camp. The Korczak orphanage was located at Sliska street, in the place where the Palace currently stands. To commemorate them, the "Walk of Silence" set off from the Palace exactly from the place where Janusz Korczak and his children marched to the Umschlagplatz.

In 2002, to commemorate the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks in NYC, the usually illuminated Palace of Culture and Science went dark. Polish national flags covered with pall were hung over the main entrance. At 9 pm a symbolic lantern of memory was lit on the observation deck. In 2005, when the Polish Pope John Paul II died, his image, the largest in the city, was hung in black frames on the east wall of the Palace. From the north, a papal flag with a cuirass was hanging. They were both an expression of mourning for the Warsaw community and the background for the funeral ceremonies taking place in the capital. The Palace also marks happy celebrations and special occasions. It changes its colour on days such as Christmas, National Independence Day, Valentine's Day or International Women's Day. On New Year's Eve in 2020 the building went green as a symbol of hope. 

Some unfortunate accidents happened in the Palace as well. In 1959, streams of water ran down the stage and the audience, flooding the theater located in the palace. It turned out that due to the heat, automatic fire-fighting devices had been activated. In 1960 a first-year student of the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Warsaw drowned in the swimming pool of the Palace of the Youth due to a heart attack. The palace suffered several fires, for example in 1964 (a fire broke out on the fourth floor) and in 1983, when the Palace of the Youth went into flames. 

 

Interesting facts about the 30th floor and the Observation Deck of the Culture Palace

The observation deck is located on the 30th floor at a height of 114 meters. There are two elevators taking tourists to the top. 

In 1958 a man jumped from the 30th floor of the Palace. It was the first suicide jump from the Observation Deck. Several more took place, for example in 1962, 1965. After these tragic incidents, bars were installed on the viewing platform.

In 1970, two elevators taking tourists to the 30th floor were replaced with the fastest ones in the country (6 meters per second). The elevator ride to the observation deck takes only 19 seconds!

In 1996, athlete Bartek Grochala rode his mountain bike up the stairs to the 30th floor. He climbed 696 steps. 

In 1997, 6 telescopes have been installed on the observation deck to make it more attractive for tourists to admire the capital from above.

Since 1998, the special lifts allow disabled people to conveniently enter the Palace, as well as access each level of the building.  

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