From the eastern border – the Bema bazaar

An interesting phenomenon in the 1990s were bazaars. An iconic example of these in Poznań, opened in 1989, was located at Bema Street (today’s Droga Dębińska). It became the most favourite shopping place not only for the inhabitants of Poznań, but also for customers from all over the Wielkopolska Region. They bought here, for example, jeans, sport shoes, furs and coats. Even despite the fact that sometimes the only thing serving as a changing room was a piece of cardboard or a van door.

The Bema bazaar is a colourful example of a place of encounters between the local community and foreign vendors. For locals it created an only opportunity to buy their favourite music, clothes and electronics. For vendors it was a chance to find a reasonably stable employment.

The bazaar on Bema Street sold goods from the eastern border, photo from Głos Wielkopolski’s Archive


Main photo - From the eastern border – the Bema bazaar

For many vendors, who mainly came from behind Poland’s eastern border, the feeling of stability was incredibly important. Often, they left their home countries for economic as well as political reasons. For example, Armenians decided to leave because of the war which their country fought against Azerbaijan. Bulgarian Muslims (Pomaks), on the other hand, left their country because they did not want to accept the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian version of their surnames, which they were forced to do by the country’s policy.

The 1990s were the time of free (sometimes not fully regulated) trade in Poland. However, the country’s policy was gradually changing. Further changes in law led to less and less foreigners coming to Bema. The bazaar itself also began to fade away. Eventually, its story ended in August 2020.

The bazaar on Bema Street, photo from Głos Wielkopolski’s Archive