In the forest, logging was being held. Beautiful, old oaks were being cut down. Another tree crumbled down with a great din. On one of the upper branches, a forest worker noticed the remains of a person holding onto the tree, a person shot during the war. Even the remnants of his clothing and weapons could be discerned. The logging took place in 1980s.
(One of the many interesting stories I had heard from inhabitants of Warmia*)
I am not a war survivor, but the topic of war has returned occasionally among my family. I have never been especially interested in it. It was still this way, when I settled in Warmia. Beautiful, ascetic landscapes, harsh climate – as for this latitude, empty houses, ruins of once marvellous palaces. This aspect – the rugged beauty of the Warmian landscape – is one of the layers of my newest painting series.
The most interesting was to come throughout meetings and talks with the native inhabitants of the region (sometimes I get the feeling that those very meetings allowed me to open up to the wartime memories of my own family). At first, those relations were marked by great distrust, which I managed to overcome only after a longer while. Thanks to numerous conversations with those presently living in Warmia, I was finally able to take a broader (or perhaps deeper) look at this land.
Inhabitants of Warmia are mostly people displaced post-war; very rarely one comes across a person who had lived there before the war. In the course of the conversations, I was able to discover that the motives of war, displacement, temporariness are still intense, not only among the elderly. This land been terribly harmed during World War II, and perhaps just as terribly – after the war.
Any monuments, statues and reminders of the German rule on the Masurian land shall be removed radically and irrevocably. They must not remain even despite their artistic, architectural or scientific value. They must vanish irretrievably. Bismarck’s oak and statue of Hindenburg must vanish. Each castle of the Order of the Teutonic Knights must vanish.
Memorial of the Masurian Union addressed to the Polish Committee of National Liberation, 1944**
Pre-war inhabitants fled or were forced to evacuate, while the new ones were often displaced here against their will. The German language was substituted with Polish and Ukraine.
Many of the pre-war villages, houses or parts of towns are no longer existent – only dispersed bricks and old boards remain. I paint on those very boards – the panels embedded with both good and bad experiences of the times gone by.
Many of the present inhabitants of Warmia are rooted in Orthodox, as well as Greek Catholic Church, both of which continue the traditions of iconography on wooden panels. This is another, perhaps the most important reason why I have decided to use old panels to create a visual story about this region – a story, which I personally see as mystical.
*Warmia (Polish: Warmia) or Erm(e)land (German: Ermland) is a historical region in northern Poland. More...
**Wiktor Knercer, “Stosunek państwa i społeczeństwa polskiego do spuścizny kulturowej Warmii i Mazur w pierwszych latach po II wojnie światowej w świetle ówczesnej prasy,” Studia Angerburigca (7) 2002.