Waiting for the End of the World with a Polish Hermit
For 20 years, Edward has been living on his own on a mountain made of World War II debris.
This article originally appeared on VICE Poland
A few miles outside the Polish city of Wrocław, a man lives entirely alone on top of a mountain. At least, that was what I gathered when my friends from Wrocław told me about "some weird recluse and a bunch of dogs living on a hill at the edge of the town." My friends talk a lot, but that particular story caught my attention.
Wrocław is located in the southwest of Poland, in a very flat area. I soon found out that the hill this man was living on was man-made – specifically, of a giant pile of World War II debris. After the war, bricks and gravel from destroyed buildings were collected at this one spot – and with time, nature took over and trees encroached it. It became an actual hill, in the backyard of a giant chemical plant complex. In a way, it was pretty romantic – a refuge from the world, on top of the grave of a former city.
When I first met this recluse, called Edward, he didn't yell at me or send his dogs after me – which I saw as a good sign. Yet, he wasn't happy about my unannounced visit either. He told me that he had been waiting for the end of the world for 20 years, and explained that nature was giving enough signs that that end was near. For a hermit, he knew quite a lot about current events – including hurricanes and other natural disasters. "Everything is God's doing," he told me.
He was fine with me taking pictures, while I listened to him for hours. He told me that when he was younger, he'd had an epiphany. In the 90s, he was a bricklayer and while at work, Jesus came to him and told him to build a house on top of a hill. So Edward found the gravel pile and started building on it.
For the next two years, I regularly went back to Wrocław to see Edward. In that time, some of his old dogs left him, and some new ones came to live with him. At night, deer would come to visit.
When we first met, Edward had already managed to build two lodges on that hill – and now he was building a third. He'd turned the debris and dust into fertile soil and used it to build shelters for the homeless of Wroclaw. During wintertime the police would come by – looking for homeless people, who needed to be taken to a city shelter. Edward always invited them in for a cup of tea to show them that while there may be snow outside, it was nice and warm in his home on the hill.
Edward worked on his lodges six days a week. Every once in a while, he'd walk down from the hill to get some water from a nearby swimming pond. He had a digital camera and took pictures of his world, which his closest neighbour archived for him. Edward was perfectly aware of what was going on around his mountain – but that world angered him mostly because, according to him, it's full of people acting against God. He expected that God would soon interfere and put an end to it all.
He never talked much. When I talked to him, he avoided many of my questions while keeping to his own talking points. So I let my questions go, I didn't want to interfere too much with his life – after all, he's chosen a life of solitude and isolation.
Two more years passed since my last visit to Wroclaw. Last month, I decided to go again for this piece. On my way to the hill, I was worried that Edward might not be there any longer but when I arrived, everything looked exactly the same. The only change was that the third lodge was almost done, and the dogs had gotten a bit older. Edward was the same. As soon as he saw me, he told me that September was too cold. To him, this was definitive proof that our world is nearing its end.
More images below.
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