The city of Kupferberg (‘Copper Mountain’), renamed ‘Miedzianka’ when the territory passed from Germany to Poland after World War II, was one of many prosperous mining towns in the mountains of Lower Silesia. As the name indicates, it was originally copper that was mined in this area—until the Soviets discovered after their occupation in 1945 that the local mines were also a rich source of uranium.
The Soviets quickly fenced off the area with barbed wire and forced local Poles to work in the uranium mines with no knowledge of the actual dangers. Officially, it was called a “paper factory,” and miners suffering from radiation poisoning were formally ignored. Anyone who attempted to reveal the true nature of the mines near Miedzianka was promptly ‘disappeared’ by the Communist government and never seen again.
After about 600 tonnes of uranium were shipped from Miedzianka to the Soviet Union, the local mine was considered to be exhausted, and the extensive tunneling underneath the town had left the ground unstable. The town itself was then torn down in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and most of the residents were forcibly resettled to the nearby city of Jelenia Góra.
Today, Miedzianka only exists in the form of a few scattered buildings, a church, and a resurrected form of its once-famous brewery along one surviving mountain road. The surrounding fields and forests are filled with the overgrown ruins of houses, factories, and cemeteries that used to form part of the city. Information boards on what was formerly the main square tell the story, accompanied by numerous photos, of what was once the bustling city center of Kupferberg/Miedzianka, now almost completely forgotten to the passage of time.
Know Before You Go
Miedzianka is about a 1-1.5km hike up the hill from the larger town of Janowice Wielkie, which has regular train and bus connections from Jelenia Góra and which also lies on some longer-distance train lines from Wrocław, Warsaw, Wałbrzeg and Görlitz. The newly-reestablished Miedzianka craft brewery (Miedzianka 57b, 58-520 Miedzianka) has English-speaking staff and also offers some historical documentation on the town in English and German.