Słubfurt: a European double dream

Border cities share a unique characteristic: they are both geographically and politically distant from centers of power. This distance makes them ideal places to observe spontaneous forms of coexistence. In 2019, I traveled to the German-Polish border to photograph the unique connection between the border towns of Frankfurt (Oder) and Słubice. Located just an hour by train from Berlin, these towns now appear as a singular entity connected by a blue bridge, despite having been separate for 60 years.

Over the decades, these towns have experienced numerous political events that have profoundly altered their demographics and identities.

Until 1945, both cities were part of the Third Reich.

Post-war agreements shifted the neighborhoods east of the river, now known as Słubice, into Polish territory, forcing German inhabitants to flee overnight to the western bank. Słubice turned into a ghost town, prompting the government to repopulate it with thousands of new inhabitants from eastern Poland. This division persisted for decades, with strict controls and long waits to cross the Oder River bridge. However, this changed in December 2007 when Poland joined the Schengen area, dismantling border posts and fostering closer ties between the two cities. This integration sparked cross-border development in urban planning, services, education, tourism, and creativity.

In 1999, German artist Michael Kurzwelly from Frankfurt (Oder) introduced the concept of “Słubfurt,” a virtual union of the two towns with a real council body. This initiative aimed to combat stereotypes formed over 60 years of separation, promoting a collaborative environment where residents could shape a new, shared identity.

I believe that the story of this specific borderland, marked by past conflicts and demographic upheavals, offers valuable insights into the ongoing discussions about new conflicts at Europe's doorstep. This project was co-financed by a STEP travel grant from the European Cultural Foundation Labs.