Symphony of the Ursus Factory (2018) - full transcript

With sounds and body memory, the ex-workers of the Ursus Factory re-enact one day of work in a plant that no longer exists. The resulting symphony consists of the choreographed movements of the workers as well as of the technical, administrative and managerial staff, accompanied by the recreated phonosphere of the heavy industry.

Present a film co-financed by
The Polish Film Institute

The construction of the Ursus factory
outside Warsaw started in 1923.

In the inter-war period, the plant produced
lorries, buses, tanks, etc.

The production of "Ursus" tractors, famed in
Europe, Asia and Africa, started after WW2.

The factory kept expanding to become
one of the largest tractor plants in Europe.

It occupied 170 ha, employed 20,000 workers
and could produce up to 100 tractors a day.

500,000th TRACTOR


The Symphony of the Ursus Factory

I was in charge
of all the core-making machines.

Also the moulding and melting shops.

And the charge area.

I was committed to work, to prove myself,
because I was raised on the work ethic.

One from here
and one from there.

We'd add some shot,
and the forgings would come out silver.

Nice, clean metal.

We'd toss the hubs
one after another.

Each was 29 kg,
as light as a feather for us.

The quota was 7.5 tons,
but we would do up to 16 tons.

I was strong.
The only woman to operate Berger machines.

No other woman could handle that.

I worked 50 years behind the wheel.

I never even broke a mirror.

Not to mention having an accident.

It's me who should get a medal.

I worked as a buyer
for 27 years.

I saw some great times for procurement.

But also poor times
when I had to come by goods.

16,000 employees
is really a lot of people!

And we all were provided with meals.

There were also trips, company holidays...

- Hello.
- Hi.

- Fasten your seatbelt.
- Dear God, that belt again!

What can you do?

- Aren't we late?
- No, we'll make it.

There was a canteen,
so nobody had to bring lunch from home.

There was soup with meat, milk, soda...

You got whatever you wanted.

There were holidays for kids twice a year.

They paid on time.
Everybody was happy.

There were trips abroad all the time
- Budapest, Prague...

We were young,
didn't notice the downsides.

It was always good,
even if it was bad.

Someone came scouting
in my village school.

He was persuading the best students
to go to the Ursus vocational colleges.

We made the boiler house into a dorm.

We boarded up the floor, painted the walls,
all by ourselves, and moved in.

I came from an area
with no tall chimney stacks.

No industry, just agriculture.

There were no job prospects at all.

It was my great achievement.
I drafted a few people in too.

Stop smoking already!

I was born here, in Ursus.
My father worked in the plants.

My sister and three brothers too.

My neighbours were technicians,
engineers and line workers.

21,000 people worked in this factory.

In the morning,
workers would flood into the plant.

I'd get up at 4 to get to work by 6.

The trains were full
in the mornings and afternoons.

Before and after
each of the three shifts, actually.

Thousands of people worked there.

After you, Dad.

I was a heavy equipment operator.

And I worked assembling tractors
for most of my life.

We'd build tractors from scratch.

We'd get the frame first.

- We added various units to the raw frame.
- Gear box, engine...

Body, wheels, wings
- and a tractor was made.

That was really something.

I worked in the chem lab.

We drilled samples to make swarf,
which we then tested, boiled in acids, etc.

It was the heart of the factory.
It would tell us what grade our casts were.

I started as a grinder,
then became a setup mechanic.

Later I was a quality controller,
after that a warehouse supervisor.

Greases, oils, solvents,
petrol, technical gases,

agents and even cyanide
in a special room.

In 1992 I was made redundant
as part of a mass layoff.

I started a trading business.

Since then I've been running
the marketplace in Niedzwiadek.

Almost everybody in Ursus
buys fresh vegetables in the marketplace.

This is where we all meet.
It's the heart of Ursus.

I've got a tractor:
a 40-year-old Ursus C330.

It's in good shape.
I've mounted a plough on it.

I use it in winter
to clear the snow here.


I worked here for 20 years.
In the forge.

It was hard work. I operated power hammers.
The largest was 16 tons.

There were also 1-, 2- and 3-ton hammers,

and 5- and 8-ton ones.

I lived in neighbouring Piastow
and I could hear each hammer strike.

When the 8-ton hammer was on in the factory,
the chandelier in my home would shake.

It was really loud.

The hammers were 80 dB
and we never got ear defenders.

People would go deaf, work hard and get ill,
but we had our clinic where we'd get help.

Those were different times,
and people had a different approach.

We celebrated birthdays together,
had company parties every Saturday.

We would go
to the finest restaurants all the time!

Every year on May 1 there was an open day.
Anyone could come and see the factory.

Visitors could walk around the halls,
there were balloons, flags, etc.

After 5 so many people would arrive that
the gates would almost burst at the seams.

Mum worked on 6 millers.
They used oil, but it was spick and span.

She'd lay thick paper around the machines
which looked like a bright carpet.

People used to respect
machines and work.

The scale was overwhelming.

Thousands of workers in each hall,
working on three shifts.

All those aisles
between machines of all sizes...

It was a real maze.

All the dust, smoke,

cupola furnace gas, the thunder of hammers.
And smoke everywhere!

We watched our workplace
go under the hammer, get destroyed....

And it was bread and butter
for a few thousand people.

My job titles were: technologist,
sewage facility foreman, technical officer.

A power hammer, a turning lathe...
I could go on and on.

Those stories are important too.

But it's too abstract if you don't see it.
With pictures, it's easier to remember.

It hurts me to see
this factory destroyed.

That's how all the Polish factories
sailed away from the safe harbour.

Democracy is for them
- the people in power.

Not for us - the working class.



Thank you to the Heroes of the film.

Nine months of participation work
based on body memory and voice development

requires commitment and trust.
You gave us both.

Your memories and faith in the possibility of
building a community have enriched our lives.

You are amazing.

Thank you to the Tractor Drivers
who took part in the film.

Your love for Ursus vehicles
is a commemoration of the factory's workers.

It was only thanks to
your professionalism and patience

that our dream of tractors returning to Ursus
could come true.

You are invaluable.

The Symphony is the joint effort
of dozens of people,

involved in this long-lasting project, based
on participation and community work.

This film is a tribute
to your openness to artistic experiment

and your social conscience.
Thank you.

Sweet secret!
All this is with Ursus in the background.

Three tons...

"Clang!?" Nothing makes such sound,
except in comics.

You can.
When I'm thinking about this, I go...

That's it!

Keep eye contact!

You can go over too.


Keep it up longer!

That was awesome!

So powerful! Again!

Now longer.

- What sound was it?
- It was the gear shaver.

Gear shaver?
What sound did it make?

The sound would change.

The shavings fall all around, I see.
Shall we?

Fine, now the one that has three.

- Then it reversed.
- Was there a sound too?

No, it was quiet when it reversed.

Work your diaphragm!

Was it (hiss), or rather (swish)?

- More like (whoosh).
- A whoosh?

- Fine. Is this the bench machine?
- Magnet.


Don't try to make identical sounds.
Sing together. I don't care about harmony.

I need your own sounds.

Slowly, everybody.

Now the other way round.

What we are interested in

is your memory of your work in the factory.

Shaft grinding, straightening,
then with a shovel, like this.

Remember what you touched and saw?

Take your time to recall.

Find a spot for yourself.

Feel free to make sounds
if there were any.