Hotel Maria

“Vodka, Papirosi!” the women whisper while they pass by and allow a glimpse into their plastic bags brimming full with packs of red Malboro and blue Monte Carlo cigarettes. Everybody knows them: They are standing at the train station, on the central market and in the neighbouring lanes. And that’s where you may find Hotel Maria.

An inconspicuous signpost points the way into this other, illegal world of the Polish town Przemysl, close to the Ukrainian border. Hotel Maria is home and shelter for Ukrainian traders who try to make a living by selling vodka and cigarettes. Usually they stay in Poland for one or two weeks, till the goods they brought are sold or homesickness gets too much for them. They live in tiny rooms, with toothbrush and toothpaste in a beaker on the window shelf and sometimes a few goods hidden in the wooden walls.

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Photos by Jan Zappner

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