Saint Barbara of the Polish Miners

Federico Hewson
Bogatynia, Poland

Story Info

Circling the Black Triangle


Story & Experience

Mining for brown (lignite) coal is a main industry of Poland despite EU fines. Local activists including those in the Czech Republic and Germany are working on strategies to change this and bring in a new cleaner industry without the loss of jobs. The Turów Coal Mine is at the heart of the Black Triangle where the borders of the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany meet – considered one of the most polluted areas of Europe. It has improved significantly since the 80s and 90s however coal is still a key industry for the Polish population despite continual health, water and environmental destruction.

Just over twenty minutes away from the mine over the border is one of the oldest Abbeys in Germany – founded in 1234. This tourist attraction has a legacy of tough nuns – surviving multiple wars over centuries including the not so long ago anti-religious soviet German Democratic Republic and a gigantic flood in 2010 of which there is still damage. It’s here I prayed, remembering my Italian grandmother’s strong faith, to Santa Barbara – the patron of the Polish miners.

I visited the mine up close and then with intention made the global RadJoy bird out of coal and flowers to symbolize the global healing movement to tend to this wounded place.

Bringing art, activism and spiritual practice together I work to use all the elements to change the story of this guardian Saint, protector from death, to a bringer of life – to new forms of energy – transforming the historic black triangle into a current circle of hope.

Bogatynia, Poland


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