At one time, I was a listener in The Association of Polish Art Photographers (ZPAF). I had many interesting, unique lecturers, real artists, but most of all, amazing people. But I was the most impressed by the photographer who talked a lot, but also asked a lot of questions, he was engaged in our work, gave meaningful, valuable tips (not “this picture is wrong, because I don’t like it). He sat down with us after class, and talked.
He told us stories. Stories that were gripping and hypnotizing, but also often sadding. Photographer found a way to survive mourning after his mother by portraying women from around the world. The picture of his mother was made three years before her death, and it began the cycle. In the introduction to a book of this series, he writes: “The rest of the photographs appeared gradually, mainly so that I could show the portrait of Mom. To find an excuse to remove it from the drawer “. He also created a gorgeous photo album (intentionally out of focus, blurred pictures), combined with short talks with people visiting Auschwitz (CLICK), with which it’s closely connected.
Mikolaj Grynberg is Jewish. Son of a survivor Marian Grynberg and Rita Grynberg. He had many conversations with other children (currently 50-60 year olds) of the Survivors. He wrote it all down in the book “I blame Auschwitz. Family Stories”. I read this book twice. I will return to it to remember all these stories, people. To be able to talk about it further. And I’ll recommend it for my friends. Let them pass it further.
Each opening, each story I read, makes me extremely emotional. Scares, shocks, saddens, makes me realize some things… It is not a fictionalized story about the war. These are the facts. Tragedies living next to us, people who have been marked by unimaginable suffering of their parents.
Of course, each of us knows what Auschwitz is, and that a lot of people died there, including Poles and Jews. Many of us were also in the area of former camp. We are touched by watching showcases filled with hair, shoes and suitcases. We listen to the guide’s stories, like on another history lesson from a school textbook. We are sad to go through the rooms. And then we’re going on a trip to Krakow’s old town and it’s forgotten. It’s all water over the dam. Well, what can you do.
“(…) those who say,” I’m terribly sad that this has happened”, and do nothing. Six million people were gassed, and they are sad.
We are indifferently passing by the inscriptions on the walls. Wojciech Wilczyk, whose two exhibitions currently hang in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews Polin, on the way to the cemetery saw a big sign on the wall saying something like “Death to the Jews.” No one paid attention to it, we were passing by indifferently. He wished he’d brought a camera with him to register this situation. He was surprised even more, when the year after, the inscription was still in the same place, next to police officers directing traffic, dozens, maybe even hundreds of people passing by it, without the slightest wink of an eye, without any comment. We can see the video depicting this situation at the exhibition presenting mainly photographs taken as part of the series “Święta Wojna” (“Holy War”)
phot. Wojciech Wilczyk
Apparently, it is nothing. Kind of silly letters, doesn’t do harm to anyone. Are we sure? Are we aware that IT happened not a log time ago? That IT concerns us all? 6 million people were gassed in chambers, burned in the oven, and… someone can still wish them death?!
The man who writes this stuff! You’re a fascist. You’re a monster. Or maybe you’re just an idiot?
This book grabs us by the neck, moves in front the truth in the front of our face, and simply, but bluntly, ENGLIHTENS us. It makes us realize that these numbers, these lessons of history are the people. People who have been deprived of their world, their roots, their families. People who survived unimaginable tragedy. And after that, how they have to live in a country where (despite the fact that Jews had lived there since the tenth century) they see such inscriptions? How?
I present you a fragment of the introduction, selected phrases from different conversations throughout the book.
At the end – part of conversation with Tova.
And more specifically? Where did my mother lived through the war?
In Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Mauthausen. Probably, it is easier to say where she didn’t live. Anyway, today is a special day – April 15. For my mother, it was a day when she lit a candle in the house. She said that it is the anniversary of the most difficult day in her life. Day of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. It sounds strange, doesn’t it?
It brings a terrible sadness.
Everyone thinks that liberation is happiness. They are right, but liberation is also the moment when you know that you are alone and that your world no longer exists. There is nothing and no one. The end. And you are alive.
And try to joke about Jews and gas. No, it’s not about distance. Distance can be to blondes. There is no distance to 6 million murdered people.
translation: Agnieszka Wawiórko