A documentary film essay
The Jarmark Europa in the stadium Dziesieciolecia in Warsaw is one of the largest bazaars in Eastern Europe, and the centre of a small trade which does not appear in any trade balance sheets.
The female traders, called ěTschelnokiî in Russian, come from many different countries of the former SU. ěTschelnokî means shuttle, and is the definition for the travelling dealers who carry their goods by hand in their famous tote bags to Warsaw or other cities west of the border of the former SU. They have exchanged their mostly middle class lives for a life constantly on the move between their homes and the bazaar. Many of them are academics who earn too little to survive from this, who are unemployed or retired. The Tschelnoki have emerged from the economic breakdown of the SU and are entrepreneurs in the first hour of a changing society.
Poland is not only geographically situated between East and West. The contrasts in the society in transition are particularly stark in Warsaw. On the one side of the Weichsel river is the centre of booming Warsaw, with mirrored glass skyscrapers which have grown incredibly quickly in the last few years. On the other side, directly opposite the Weichsel, is the stadium with the Jarmark Europa. This city within a city, which has become a huge business and functions according to its own laws,
is economically so successful that the city of Warsaw cannot so readily do without it.
The bazaar has existed in the stadium since 1989. The stadium is a typical location for large bazaars in formerly socialist countries. Many stadiums have taken on new uses: from locations of sporting events to places of trade with just as many visitors. They are the result of peopleís self-organisation, people who have taken over what the state was no longer able to do, distribution of goods. The unregulated trade of goods also has a disadvantage. A Mafia was immediately organised, which took control and takes a large portion of the tradersí profit away from them again.
When travel restrictions were loosened as a result of Perestroika, travel agents very quickly formed in many places, offering tourist trips e.g. to Poland, Turkey or Greece. At first these journeys were business trips. First of all people came to shop goods which were scarce, or not available at all. Innumerable people set on their way and began an exchange of goods.
Swetlana J. from Brest, the border town between White Russia and Poland, describes her development to newsstand owner on the Jarmark Europa. After she lost her job as a music teacher during Perestroika she first tried, like so many others, to earn her living with small dealing over the borders to Poland. She read books to stop being bored whilst waiting for customers. Swetlana was always interested in literature, so she came upon the idea of making her passion into a business. She now has a newsstand in the Jarmark Europa, with a large selection of Russian contemporary literature, classics, light novels, Russian music and video films.
As her customers consist of traders, she came upon the idea to not only sell the books, but also to lend them out. Her library in the bazaar is not only a lucrative service industry for thousands of Russian traders, (who work from five in the morning until twelve midday, then have to kill time for the rest of the day in cramped living quarters) but also a treasure trove for students of Slavic languages.