The Buchbund, Berlin
The Buchbund − The German-Polish bookshop in Berlin
The German-Polish bookshop “Buchbund” has existed since October 2011 and is now an established fixture in the map of “Polish” Berlin. There are so many cultural events and literary meetings here that the Buchbund is increasingly regarded as an alternative Polish Institute. It is not only popular amongst Poles.
The idea of setting up a German-Polish bookshop in Berlin was born long before the first books arrived on the shelves in Sanderstraße 8 in the multicultural suburb of Neukölln. The Pole, Marcin Piekoszewski, and his German wife Nina Müller, who run the Buchbund, dreamt of a place where people could meet and have lively discussions, not necessarily about literature. Both of them have a very particular fondness for such places: when all’s said and done the couple got to know each other in a bookshop in Kraków.
But there was another, more basic reason for their opening the Buchbund. Berlin is, a city with 3,500,000 inhabitants, of whom 180,000 are Poles or of Polish origin, the second largest group of migrants after Turks. But whereas it was no problem to purchase books in Japanese, Persian, Russian, French, and in the Scandinavian languages, not to speak of English and American books, there was not a single bookshop which specialised in Polish books. Looking back over the years there has been only one Polish bookshop in Berlin: in the 1980s. It was a meeting place for Poles to discuss current political issues and purchase books from Poland, not only those officially allowed by the Communist state but also books that were banned. It is not clear who came up with the name “Buchbund”. The owners of the bookshop still argue about it, but they are unanimous in agreeing that it wasn’t the meaning of the name they liked, but rather its sound.
The opening of the shop in October was a success. The Buchbund quickly made a name for itself as an address that was not only popular amongst Poles but also amongst Germans looking for German translations of Polish literature or seeking information on Poland before their first visit. Since the Buchbund is growing increasingly popular with other foreigners living in Berlin it has now expanded its range to include books in the English language.
The bookshop probably not only owes its reputation to the long list of books available here but also and above all to its warm and friendly atmosphere. Its comfortable armchairs and the wooden table in the middle of the room that invites people to strike up conversations, is more reminiscent of a family home. Next door there is a small bar where you can order coffee, tea and other drinks. The rough bare walls covered in pictures and posters underline the informal atmosphere.
The immediate surroundings of the bookshop are not typical. The majority of shops are cheap stores selling textiles and household goods. Nearby there is a club for immigrants from Arabian countries that is only open to men: in addition there is a hair removal salon and a number of restaurants. Indeed you might think that this was a somewhat inauspicious neighbourhood for an indisputably cultural establishment like the Buchbund. That said, the German-Polish bookshop fits in perfectly with the multicultural mishmash in Neukölln.