Once Upon a Time on the Baltic Sea. Gdynia of the 1920s on Roman Morawski’s camera

Dariusz Małszycki

The port of Gdynia and the city which came to existence together with it are among the top flagship Polish economic investments of the 20th century. Many photographers from all over the country made sure its construction and operation were well documented. Roman Morawski (1883-1931) was one of them. The photographer and sales specialist from Lviv came to Gdynia in 1921. Unfortunately, we have not been able to determine his earlier fate. The Lviv address books indicates that a sales specialist with an identical name worked in the city and ran a mercer’s shop in 2 Sykstuska Street. However, it remains uncertain whether it was the same person.

Roman Morawski was probably the first photographer to settle in Gdynia permanently. He opened Gdynia’s first stationary and office supplies wholesale company in 2 Starowiejska Street. He also ran a tobacco products wholesale and retail outlet in the same place. He was one of the founders of the Independent Traders Association in Gdynia. Apart from being a trader, he was a photographer too. In 71 Szosa Gdańska (today’s Morska Street) he ran a photography studio – formally, it was registered in his wife Seweryna’s name. He died on 12th December 1931 and was buried in the Witomino cemetery.

He is the author of multiple photographic postcards with views of Gdynia, including the port being built. His work documents the scenes from the city’s and its inhabitants’ live as well as the establishment and development of the Polish Navy and the fleet of warships. You can also see those who were building Gdynia – from the anonymous workers and seamen, through those who represented local administration to the dignitaries who were visiting the place. The 330 of his photographic postcards which belong to Gdynia City Museum’s collection allow to examine the process of Gdynia’s transformation from a village into a large port and city.

It is a certain paradox that we only know Roman Morawski, who took hundreds of photographs, from two slightly blurry images kept as a part of the Gdynia City Museum’s collection.  Both the photographer’s biography and his likeness still remain a mystery to us.


Once Upon a Time on the Baltic Sea. Gdynia of the 1920s on Roman Morawski’s camera

Gdynia City Museum
1 Zawiszy Czarnego Street
From 30th November 2019 to 12th April 2020

Exhibition opening:
29th November 2019, 18.00