The terrace of houses has white paint peeling from the outer walls and broken furniture in the front yards. It is only the plastic sheeting across the ground floor windows that gives away that number 36 is a squat. The light is on inside and the silhouette of a model ship on the window ledge shows through the plastic.
Knocking on the front door I hear Piotr’s voice calling, “Who’s there?” His relief is visible as he opens the door after I shout back that it is me, the girl from the anarchist party. He apologises for the mess as we enter. Squeezing through the hallway, where a pile of bikes fills most of the space, we enter his kitchen.
It is homely; the walls painted a warm orange and music playing on a radio in the corner. But the ceiling is a patchwork of different boards, and the plaster is falling off one of the walls. Piotr’s housemate, Karol, who joins us later, recounts how, when they first arrived, the house was too dangerous to live in so they had to repair a lot of it themselves. Karol found the building by looking through letter boxes, judging whether houses were occupied by how much mail was piled up on the floor.
Piotr slouches into a faded armchair and rubs his eyes. Both men are exhausted. Since they lost their case against eviction they have had little time to sleep, working during the day and packing their things at night. “It is a nightmare” says Piotr. Both he and Karol work as medical couriers, cycling for up to eight hours a day before they come home.
The previous owner of the house died, they say, and his family members are arguing about what to do with the property. The row has lasted for at least the five years Karol has lived here. In the meantime the squatters have transformed a decaying waste of space into a home.