Photo Stories/Exhibitions

Up to 1990, thus, up to the age of 8, I was growing up in the village of Idzbark in western Masuria. This former East Prussian territory became known as the Recovered Lands after the Second World War. For a small girl living in Masuria, this enigmatic term was simply a part of everyday life. The houses – and the furniture and equipment that they contained – were referred to as post-German. The urban layout in Masurian villages and towns was and still is post-German, and the cultural landscape of this region remains just this. The manner in which fields are separated from each other, the maple and linden avenues, and even the old fruit bearing apple trees amidst spruce monocultures bear witness to the existence of settlements here… these are the relicts of the inhabitants of Masuria who came before me and shaped these places.

In my photographs, I want to draw attention to the fact that nature lives its own life regardless of the many twists and turns of human history. Yes, it is subject to the influence of culture, and the way in which nature is perceived and approached do result from the distinct characteristics of socialisation in a given culture. Even so, camomile and yarrow will continue to grow on the wastelands here, regardless of the names we give them, the language the persons around them, and the boundaries of the countries where they grow in.

For me, however, the post-German adjective and neologism has a much deeper meaning. When in 1990 my parents and I emigrated to Meerbusch-Büderich in the FRG, I was overwhelmed by the sadness of having lost my Masurian home. I was accompanied by a strong resolution to return to this region and make it my home as an adult. Thus, I was anticipating my personal post-German period, when I would return from Germany to Poland.

The photographs making up the exhibition are witnesses of the period of personal transformation lasting several years that in the years 2015-2019 accompanied my return to Idzbark after 23 years in emigration. Having settled down in Idzbark, thus, successfully fulfilling perhaps my greatest goal so far, I came face to face with the emerging emptiness of my unplanned future. An emptiness that meant freedom of choice and a new beginning. During this time, photography turned out to be an invaluable remedy to the disquieting feeling of being suspended in spacetime.

The term recovered concerns not only my family village as a new/old place of residence. Upon my settling there, I also recovered the Polish language as my mother tongue, in which I had not previously created or published anything on my own, since I acquired almost all of my education in Germany. Once I made Idzbark my home for good, in 2015, I started writing a personal blog called Zdrowy Wieśniak [Healthy Villager], where I wrote about my rural day-to-day living, illustrating it with photographs from my lengthy, solitary walks through Idzbark and the surrounding villages.

However, as is usually the case, the adjective recovered also concerns me, this post-German woman, who has to create herself anew in Poland, drawing from the experience of life and socialisation in Germany. After years of being ‘split’ between socialisation in communism and socialisation in capitalism, between village and city life, between Poland and Germany, the circle was closed. As a result, I found myself in a new place where I had (re)gained my freedom of choice of the features, interests, skills and abilities from which I will draw, harnessing them in the future to become myself.