They left clothes strewn around, unmade beds, open books, the TV turned on, as if they were about to come back soon. They left their rooms unprepared for emptiness.
Every year, the Polish police file 15,000 missing person reports. Every day, the faces of missing people gaze out from posters designed to attract our attention; yet, every passing day, they are noticed less. We become as immune to these posters, as we do to their faces. Only those who have lost someone in these circumstances can begin to imagine the pain these families are going through. Their feelings teeter between loss and hope. Often the rooms of the missing lost ones are left untouched, for several months, years, and even decades.
I traveled 7,200 km throughout the country to visit their homes. During each visit, I photographed the rooms of the missing with the permission of their families. In addition, I also photographed the portraits that remained of the missing people in a very individual and subjective way. Each intimate portrait is a metaphor to a time that stands still, and an attempt to hold on to the memory of each unique life.Often it is not possible to recall information, or associations, which is testament to the slow, but inevitable process of forgetting. Each family also gave me a handwritten letter addressed to the missing loved one.
This project seeks to reinvigorate the efforts to find the missing, and to create awareness of the immense pain caused by the loss of a loved one, who one day went missing—by highlighting the plight of those who are missed and those who miss them.
Full profiles can be viewd at : www.zaginieni.pl/
Missing since: 20/01/1995 Age at disappearance: 22
Missing since: 1/08/2011 Age at disappearance: 25
Missing since: 17/06/2009 Age at disappearance: 79
Missing since: 22/07/2011 Age at disappearance: 60
Missing since: 15/06/2002 Age at disappearance: 22
Missing since: 3/10/2010 Age at disappearance: 23
Missing since: 13/08/2003 Age at disappearance: 26
Missing since: 30/03/1999 Age at disappearance: 15
Missing since: 1/01/2010 Age at disappearance: 57
Missing since: 27/03/2006 Age at disappearance: 19
Missing since: 12/01/2010 Age at disappearance: 79
Missing since: 4/07/2010 Age at disappearance: 26
Missing since: 4/07/2010 Age at disappearance: 26
Missing since: 10/12/2009 Age at disappearance: 55
Missing since: 13/02/2012 Age at disappearance: 24 Found: 15/08/2012
Missing since: 15/06/2010 Age at disappearance: 30
Missing since: 15/06/2010 Age at disappearance: 30
Missing since: 15/06/2010 Age at disappearance: 30
Self-portrait with my Mother
I remember the joy caused by the discovery of Haribo jellies, Nutella and margarine among colourful clothes packed in heavy 15-kilo cardboard boxes. We used to get huge packages from relatives who lived in West Germany, when Poland was lacking many basic things. It was a celebration, the whole family was present for the grand opening.
These clothes, even though second hand, were good enough for Mum, she never felt the need to buy new ones. She preferred to save money for more important expenses. She always looked modest and didn't like black. Some say that what one wears is a part of creating one's identity. My mother, all her life, wore clothes that she hadn't chosen.
I've been reliving the past and have lived in the past since she passed away in 2008. All my work has been building on my memories and longing. "Self-portrait with my mother" is an attempt to summarise that period, move beyond the past - a final reconciliation with reality.
My grandmother's house is empty and cold now, mining damage slowly changed it into ruin. This is where my mother, my sister and me grew up. It is here where I brought clothes after the death of mother. And now when also my grandmother passed away, it is here where I've been taking self-portraits, recreating the dresses and outfits from my memory exactly like my mother use to match them. I've tried another set which we got in one of those big packages so many years ago. I''ve found her blond hair on the green coat.
I remember her sitting at the piano, focused, her hand tapping the rhythm, patiently listening to the rattle of her students, and I can still hear her gentle voice: let’s repeat this fragment. How was she able to listen to that; I do not know till this day. My sister and I would leave the house after few minutes.
For the journey clothes
The departure day. Crowd on the platform. I am clasping my mum's and sister's hands. Suddenly I am rising. It's my mum passing me to my dad through the compartment's window. I am follwed by two suitcases. My mum and sister somhow join us. It's crowded and stuffy and like that for the next 14 hours. However, 2 weeks of seaside holidays are a worthwhile prize. Mum has prepared sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and tea in a 'Wyborowa' vodka bottle, we have 'Happy Minutes' ( a children's puzzle magazine in communist Poland). She loves the sea. She travels lost in her thoughts, I think she can already smell the sea and hear the waves and screeching seagulls. Her blue dress may be made from cheap material, but it doesn't crease and dries in 2 minutes - perfect for such journeys.
At the coalmine's kindergarten she would prepare the little ones for many performances. She would teach them songs about beloved mothers, the blackened faces of miners or brave marching Polish soldiers. She knew a song for every occasion. She wore blouses with big geometric patterns for the children. They loved her, the happy plump lady, who with rosy cheeks accompanied their singing on the piano in front of their proud parents.
Small, badly furnished office in No 2 Primary School, that both I and my sister attended. On the door “The Principal of After School Activities”. Mum at her desk, writing a report regarding achievements of "Alkatras"(a club for youngsters with prob- lems) and “Orlik” (club for children and teenagers) for a meeting meeting with the town mayor. I'm waiting patiently in the corner; I want to walk home with her.
It’s Christmas Eve, mom bustling in the kitchen, taking golden carp out of oven carefully as not to stain herself with the hot butter. She is even wearing makeup, green, to match the outfit. She’s happy. She loves Christmas. After dinner, she is sitting at the piano and we all are singing Christmas carols.
It's summer, apart from the intensively bright sun, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and mum's voice wakes us up. I have a quick peek through the curtains, a line of washing must have been hung outside early in the morning, it looks completely dry. I cannot see anyone, but I know she's there. I crane my neck and I am just able to make out blonde locks and cigarette smoke. The morning 'gossip' with the neighbours is in full swing. Bare-footed and in pjs my sister and I jump out on the balcony and join the discussion. We love summer. We have our mum to ourselves for a whole 2 months of holidays.
Sunny day, the whole family sits at my grandmother’s garden, sausag- es on the grill, twittering birds, laughter, conversation. In this dress, my mother would always be smiling, relaxed. She would were it only on sunny, free from work days.
I am 7 years old, the early nineties, cousin’s wedding, 150 guests; I don’t know most of them. I am stuffing my mouth with a cake while watching my parents danc- ing to a bad version of Krawczyk’s song. My mother loved to dance and she was good at it. They looked great together, understanding without words. She did not like this type of feasts. Chatting with relatives, whom you see only at weddings and funerals. What to talk to them about? It’s much better to dance and send smiles.
Sunday best clothes
It's Saint George's day. The whole family goes to the church fair. First we check out stands full of plastic toys, then the shooting range where dad manages to win mum a bunch of garish, fake flowers. Pink candy floss can't be missed, my sister and I have to stamp our feet to get it, as it's not healthy and bad for our teeth. But mum always gives in and on top of this grandma gives us two 'golden' rings with pink 'gems'. Total bliss. At the end merry-go-round, we plead for one more go, just one more. And then we're going back, bangers going off in the background, mum, dad and grandma happy, chatty; my sister playing a toy whistle; and me with a mandatory baloon tied to my wrist.
She would leave for work in darkness; we would all be still asleep. She would take a red bus to her work at the music school. We didn’t have a car. Waiting for the bus, bitter cold, the uncertainty whether it would come, shifting from foot to foot. On the way back she would do shopping. She would move slowly with heavy bags, being careful not to slip. Frizzing cold, with a red nose and cheeks she would enter the house. Every night her soaked black boots would stand in a puddle of melted snow under a radiator in the kitchen.
If I lay here
The life lasting project was inspired by Snow Patrol’s song „Chasing Cars”. The idea is simple - I lay down wherever and whenever I feel like (well, making sure the composition is good), even if it’s not always legal and take a picture. Carrying around my camera and my small yellow tripod I’m registering important moments in my life. The focus is not only on capturing places I’ve been to, but also and mostly about changes. I want to document how I change over the years - the color and length of my hair, my body shape, clothes, style (although I’m not really sure I have one). And in this way create an enduring documentary record of my life.
It all started in 2010...
Stonehenge / UK
Rydułtowy / The highest slag heap in Europe / Poland
Snorralaug / Snorri´s pool - build in 1887 / Iceland
Tel Aviv / Israel
Times Square / New York / USA
Central Park / New York / USA
Rocky Steps / Philadelphia Museum of Art / Philadelpia / USA
Harvard Square / Cambridge / USA
Brooklyn Bridge Park / New York/ USA
Reflecting poll / Lincoln Memorial / Washington D.C. / USA
Where Forrest Gump reunited with Jenny
First "If I lay here" exhibition / Galeria Arsenal / Poznań /Poland
Jaffna / Sri Lanka
View from Pidurangala on Sigiriya Rock / Sri Lanka
Haputale tea plantatnions / Sri Lanka
Kosgoda Beach / Sri Lanka
Landskrona Citadel / Sweden
Cirkelbroen bridge / Copenhagen / Denmark
Nykredit Krystallen / Copenhagen / Denmark
Amsterdam / Netherlands
View from the Narikala Fortress / Tbilisi / Georgia
Tbilisi / Georgia
Toulouse / France
If I lay on a flamingo / Sarag Lake / Poland
Volcano Etna crater / Sicily
South side of Mount Etna / Sicily
Valle del Bove / North side of Mount Etna / Sicily
Cefalù / Sicily
Valle dei Templi / Agrigento / Sicily
If I lay on the top of my beloved car / Szudziałowo / Poland
Centre Pompidou-Metz / France
Pont Adolphe Bridge / Luxembourg
Salita Della Scaletta / Bergamo / Italy
Hafencity / Hamburg
the Central Terrace of the Duomo di Milano / Milano / Italy
Underground swimming pool / Milano / Italy
“His Majesty’s government will never forget the debt they owe to the Polish troops who have served them so valiantly and for all those who have fought under our command....”
Winston Churchill at the Crimea Conference 27, February 1945
These words were put into action by the Polish Resettlement Act of 1947. Over 200 camps were set up across Great Britain to provide refuge for hundreds of displaced Polish war veterans and their dependants, who would have faced imprisonment or execution if had returned to their homeland. There is only one left and it is run by the British Ministry of Defence to this day.
Ilford Park, also known as Stover Camp and just 2 miles from Newton Abbot town centre, was set up in 1948. The same year the first camp baby was born. A girl called Krystyna. It became a vibrant settlement, a kind of a small town, with its own church, hairdresser, communal kitchen and dining area, cinema, nursery, library, hospital and shop. In the heart of Devon, people of different social backgrounds and from different parts of Poland built an integrated community. Soldiers who fought in and survived the greatest battles of World War II had lost and dearly missed their homeland. Unable to return they created new homes and with time assimilated. The locals started calling it “Little Poland” and it is known by this name today, despite the fact that the 16-hectare camp does not exist anymore. By the end of 1992 all the inhabitants had been moved to the newly built Ilford Park Polish Home on the same site.
Ilford Park is a place unlike any other with 83 unique residents each and their rooms. Each person and each story are simply breath-taking and unforgettable, taking the listener back to the times of war. Heroes from the Battle of Britain, Warsaw Uprising, Monte Cassino and other battles as well as survivors of Siberian gulags moved in and made it home, a Polish home. When entering the building it feels like crossing the border into Poland. Most of the staff is Polish, some were brought up here. The corridors are named after Polish cities. The shop, still open 3 times a week and run by Krystyna’s sister, is located on Warsaw Street as is the church where mass in Polish starts promptly at 10:30 every morning. The main kitchen is based on Gdynia Street, the therapy room is at the end of Wroclaw Street. At each street crossing a “day space” was created, 4 in total. They are the hubs of the home. The residents gather there to eat, chat, have visitors, watch TV and listen to the radio. Polish songs are sung every Wednesday, the hairdresser comes on Mondays, Bingo is on Tuesday and Thursday. There are also regular shopping and sightseeing trips to go on. Every corner and every wall is full of Polish emblems, souvenirs, paintings and poems. The only thing that is not as Polish as “Little Poland” residents would like is the food. It truly is a home away from home.
The project was created thanks to the scholarship from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland
Babies awaken strong emotions in adults. We look after them with care and gentleness, we love them. Surprisingly, this is the case even if they are not real.
I wanted to find out why.
It looks like a real baby, it even smells like one, but it’s made of vinyl. When you take on such a doll, you are given a birth certificate with the weight and height, just like a real baby. Each and every one of them is unique, carefully crafted by reborn artists, that’s why they are collected as pieces of art. Yet those dolls happen to be a powerful therapy tool. It’s proven that cuddling a baby causes a release of hormones, which produce a sense of well-being. They bring comfort.
Every woman has a unique motive for having such a baby. The maternal instinct is so strong that those who can’t have, or have lost a baby, give their love to an unreal one. They look after them, change them, take them for a walk and buy clothes for them. The “babies” provide companionship, they bring calming routine, they are a little bundle of joy to love and help their “mothers” dealing with loss, depression, trauma or anxiety.