Warsaw: Warsaw University and Library

Warsaw University

The vicinity of the Warsaw University campus forms the focal part of Warsaw’s social and cultural life. A students’ hub full of cafes, live music clubs, students’ eateries, bookshops and second-hand bookshops, has formed around University’s main gate.

Warsaw University was inaugurated in 1816, founded by Tsar Alexander I as postulated by Stanisław Staszic and Stanisław Kostka Potocki. The school was closed down following subsequent anti-Russian uprisings in 1831 and 1863. The first free election of the University authorities was held only in 1918. In the early 1930s, it had over 10,000 students.

Since 1911, students have been entering the campus through a Neo-Baroque gate. It features two statues in niches: that of Athena, symbol of Peace, and of Urania representing knowledge. Both figures destroyed during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, returned reconstructed to the gate in the 1980s. Just like prior to WW II, the gate is topped with the figure of a crowned eagle surrounded by five stars, the University emblem.

The University’s development was interrupted by the outbreak of WW II. With the school’s activity banned, the campus was turned into gendarmerie barracks, while the Auditorium Maximum into a stable. In the course of the war, 63 University professors perished and many students participated in the Resistance. Substantially damaged in the war, the campus buildings had been fully renovated by 1960.

The focal point of the campus is to be found in the so-called ‘Old BUW’, namely the edifice of the former Library. Raised in 1894, the building housed four reading-rooms, catalogues, and library workshops. During the Nazi occupation, some Warsaw library collections were hidden there, bricked in the walls. Despite substantial damage, the building survived the war.

In 1999, BUW transferred to a modern facility in the Powiśle District near the Vistula. From the side of Dobra Street it features the ‘cultural façade’ made up of eight panels showing; e.g. a fragment of Karol Szymanowski’s music score; a piece of Jan Kochanowski’s poem; an excerpt from a Greek text: one from Plato’s Phaedrus; and panels with a mathematical formula. Inside the building, by the entrance to the main auditorium, the so-called ‘Philosophers’ Colonnade’ consists of statues of illustrious Polish philosophers.

Not only has the new building become the depository of the large BUW collections, but it has also turned into one of the most popular meeting venues in this part of the city. The Library’s roof exposes one of the largest roof-top gardens across Europe, luring with the panorama of Warsaw and the view of the Vistula. The facility houses cafes, bookshops, second-hand bookshops, and even a bowling alley. At one point the media even commented on an activity called ‘BUWing’, that is dating on the Library premises.

One of the major edifices along the Royal Route separating the campus from the street is the Tyszkiewicz Palace, outstanding as for its beauty in pre-war Warsaw. Having survived the defence of the capital, it was bombed during the Warsaw Uprising. Rebuilt after WW II, it was only partly restored to regain its former appearance. A stone balcony from the side of Krakowskie Przedmieście Street rests on the figures of Atlases dating from 1787. The building’s genuine façade has been preserved.

Following WW II, Warsaw University resumed its activity under its pre-war name. In December 1945, 4,000 students turned up for their courses. Constituting a strong dissident centre in Communist Poland, in 1968 it witnessed mass student protests against the Communist regime.

Today Warsaw University rates first among Polish higher education institutions in the ‘Polityka’ weekly’s ranking. It employs over 3,500 academic teachers who work with 50,000 students from all over Poland . Having joined the ‘Bologna Process’, it develops cooperation with foreign higher education institutions: in 2012, Warsaw University received the ‘Golden Erasmus’ Prize for having organized the largest number of trips in the ‘Erasmus’ Student Exchange Programme.

Young mathematicians from Warsaw University came second in the 2012 Mathematics Competition which took place in Bulgaria, competing among 316 students from over 80 schools worldwide. In 2013, Warsaw University physicists became vice-champions in the 5th International Physicists’ Tournament in Lausanne. They beat the teams of France, Russia, China, and Great Britain to name just a few. In 2012 , the 3rd –year-student of computer science Jakub Pachocki came second in the TopCoder Open Algorithm Competition. Pachocki was also member of the Warsaw University team which became vice-champions in team programming at ACM ICPC 2012 Finals organized by Warsaw University.

Warsaw University buzzes with cultural and social life, even long hours after the last courses had ended. The school hosts conferences, exhibitions, open lectures, and concerts, among them the annual Juwenalia, a students’ fun holiday time just prior to the summer exams. (PAP)


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