Bodan Litnianski

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First design of a biography


Bodan (3rd from left) at the Required Employmment, where he was sent from 1941 untill the liberation


Here, in front, at a 14th July party at Viry-Noureuil.


Bodan and Denys Riout in 2002

Bodan Litnianski was born in Ternopol (Ukraine) in 1913. At  the age of 17, he leaves his country to try his luck elsewhere and arrives in the region of Laon. There, in the north of France, that still was in a proces of rebuilding, and were his schooling as a shoemaker was useless, he found employment as a mason. He will remain this until his retirement in 1975.

Even the years of war will not interrupt this destiny to  hold the trowel. Taken prisoner in 1941, he was sent to Germany under the Service du Travail Obligatoire (Required Employment). He will take part in the construction of several bunkers. One of them, on the Polish border, left him –as he said in other words– with the most painful memory of his life: that he had built something truly indestructible.

Being freed and back in France, once more in the rubble of cities that had to be rebuild, he wanders through the region from one site to another, crossing it without knowing what his future would bring: here a quarry with unusal stones,  there the waste of a smelter.

Without real financial means,  he becomes the owner of a dilapidated house on a plot of approximately 570 m2, located rue Jean Jaurès in Viry-Noureuil.

Being a mason during the day and a mason in the evening, he restores it by means of his good knowledge and the use of recuperated materials. Now that the family has a roof, Bodan does not stop, going from restoring to decorating.

At first, he begins in a rather classic way with shells, decorating frames of doors and windows. Then he covers the facades with shells without really creating patterns. In this way the house gets its name “shell house”. Once the facades of the courtyard (a rather modest surface) are completed,  Bodan continues with the pinion (on the east side) and the low exterior wall that leads to it.

We find this type of shell ornaments haphazardly along the roads of the (Aisne)  department, but also in the Oise, where in the environment of the city of Meru the tabletterie (manufacture of buttons and objects from mother of pearl) produced a lot of waste (remnants of shells and unusable pebbles). Bodan will surprise the passerby with the size of the area that is decorated in this way.

Once he has completed this phase, a hole in the western wall through which his dog did escape, gives him the opportunity to continue his work. He stops using shells,  thinking probably that the amount needed would be an obstacle to his plan, and goes on by recuperating materials of mineral origin. First strangely shaped blocks, stones, pebbles, and later broken tiles (used outside), pieces of pottery, slags ...

Bodan expanded his area of gleaning, Agnès Varda said, and seeing the area that remained for him to fully enclose the site, he allows himself step by step the use of manufactured products. That was already the case with the tiles, but one would only see  the upper side of the slice and the tones remained neutral. With the broken porcelain coming from sinks, toilets ... the recuperation is not hidden anymore and the flakes of white that  gradually scatter the enclosure are quickly accompanied by the red of broken flowerpots,  the green of bottles .…

Gradually plastic is incorporated in the construction. Bodan collects it touring around in the environment with scooter and cart, but the neighbors also donate him some of their rubbish.

Once the enclosure is complete and he has discovered that what started as a work of utility, has turned into a funny and creative activity, Bodan begins to invest in the two gardens. Firstly, by lining the paths with columns, then by filling in the new spaces that were formed this way, with other columns or constructions...

Since Bodan perfectly commands the technique of cement and concrete, he builds increasingly higher columns, that are interlocked by shelves, that are also made of reinforced concrete and are clad wth all kind of objects. All these works of masonry are finished, along the lines of newly constructed homes that are decorated with a bouquet of flowers, by bouquets of different objects but also of plastic flowers that he made with great care.

It is not known exactly when Bodan really stopped building his columns. He was not clear on the issue and often gave contradictory information, without ever offering exact dates. The last years have therefore been mainly devoted to the maintenance and the restoration of the site, but especially to his great pleasure: to welcome more  and more visitors each year.

On June 15 2005 Bodan died in the Hospital of Chauny. He is buried in the cemetery of Viry-Noureuil.

The site is now for sale. His grand-son takes the position that the site should be respected.

In the region ideas are germinating ...
We'll have more details soon.

Bodan visiteThe visit can start

bio4 bio 5

To amuse visitors, Bodan would not hesitate to imitate the sketch by (the in France well known actor) Fernand Raynaud Hello tonton, why do you couch?, using an old hifi set and a telephone

bodan 2003




In his workshop, in the midst of his latest finds


July 2001


August 2002


May 2005

Le Jardin des merveilles de Bodan Litnianski  est le site des Éditions Vivement Dimanche (association loi 1901 déclarée n° 2/12859). contact : This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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