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A Tour Through Poland as Seen in ‘Ida’

Fans of the Oscar-winning film should start in the central Polish city of Lodz

Stephanie Butnick
February 27, 2015
Ida/Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) and Wanda (Agata Kulesza) in Ida. (Courtesy of Music Box Films)
Ida/Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) and Wanda (Agata Kulesza) in Ida. (Courtesy of Music Box Films)

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List is largely credited with revitalizing Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of Krakow, in which many of the movie’s iconic scenes were filmed. Krzysztof Bielawski, who runs Virtual Shtetl, the impressive website from Warsaw’s Museum of the History of Polish Jews, asks whether Pawel Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning Holocaust film Ida could have a similar effect on the places it features. (h/t Tablet contributor Ruth Ellen Gruber’s Jewish Heritage Europe, another excellent resource for information about Jewish sites in Europe.)

The film follows soon-to-be nun Anna and her acerbic aunt Wanda on a journey both emotional and very much physical. As J. Hoberman described it, “Ida is thus a kind of investigatory road film in which, driving through rural Poland, the cloistered novice learns more about life’s cruelties and her country’s recent past than she would surely ever want to know—while her aunt, whose belief in her own secular faith has long since eroded, is forced to re-experience the trauma she would prefer had remained buried.”

Bielawski maps out where travelers inspired by the moving story should head:

The film was shot, among other places, in Łódź, on Legionów Street (between Żeromskiego and Gdańska Streets), in front of the house at 13 Dowborczyków Street and in the former “Lajkonik” restaurant at 50 Rzgowska Street.

Several Łódź cemeteries are featured prominently in the film, They are, Bielawski explains, “the Jewish cemetery on Bracka Street and the communal cemetery on Smutna Street.”

The filmmakers were also working in Zgierz, near a former police station at 18 Dąbrowskiego Street and at the junction of Wróbla and Szeroka Streets, as well as in Pabianice.

The monastery scenes were filmed in the former Zamoyskis’ palace in Klemensów, once a village, presently located within the borders of Szczebrzeszyn.

The film’s positive critical reception, as well as the inevitable post-Oscar win bump for American audiences, may very well serve to put Ida’s Poland on the tourist map. It would be a particularly poignant mark of success for the film. As Hoberman wrote of Polish-born director Pawel Pawlikowski, “Implicit in his rapt contemplation of the voluptuously dreary yet transcendent Polish landscape, his movie’s deepest subject is Poland.”

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.