Tornatene a casa, polacco

Il viaggio fotografico di quasi duemila chilometri di Michal Iwanowski: dal posto in cui vive, in Galles, a quello da cui proviene, in Polonia

Anni fa il fotografo Michal Iwanowski – che ha doppia cittadinanza britannica e polacca – lesse su un muro di Cardiff, in Galles, la scritta “Go Home, Polish” (tornatene a casa, polacco). Anni dopo, nell’aprile 2018, ha preso quell’invito alla lettera e si è messo in viaggio per percorrere a piedi il tragitto da Cardiff, dove vive, al suo paese d’origine, Mokrzeszów, in Polonia. Ha impiegato 105 giorni per 1900 chilometri, passando per il Galles, l’Inghilterra, la Francia, il Belgio, l’Olanda, la Germania, la Repubblica Ceca e infine la Polonia. Le foto che ha realizzato durante il viaggio sono raccolte nel progetto Go home, polish, che potete vedere completo sul suo sito o sul suo profilo Instagram, dove ne ha tenuto traccia man mano.

Iwanowski ha raccontato di aver visto la scritta nel 2006 e che gli rimase in testa per anni portandolo a domandarsi il significato del concetto di “casa”, soprattutto dopo il referendum su Brexit nel 2016. Le foto della serie sono a tratti concettuali, a tratti documentaristiche e inframezzate con autoritratti ironici, come ha scritto il critico di fotografia del Guardian Sean O’Hagan. A lui il fotografo ha anche spiegato che «il progetto è un modo di pensare all’idea di casa, anche perché mi avrebbe portato dal posto in cui ho vissuto per 18 anni al luogo da cui provengo. Tutto questo in un momento in cui Brexit aveva reso l’idea di casa, identità e appartenenza un concetto molto politicizzato».

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I guess it was a matter of time. On Wednesday I crashed and decided to throw in the towel. My body gave up on me, and so did my mind, categorically and without any warning. The heat of the last few weeks had drained me of all energy supplies and the more water I drank, the weaker I was becoming. I ended up throwing all my stuff into the bushes in a tantrum, and sitting by the side of the road with quivering lips and the mother of all self-pity by my side. It lasted a few hours. I got back up. I'm mentioning it in order to give some context to the story I’m about to tell you. The Mother Pole on my compass was hard at work. It was leading me to Cacilie, a 94-year-old beaut of a woman, the short and fat kid everybody loved and still does. She grew up in Smolec, a village just outside of Wroclaw, now Poland. I have known Smolec all my life, mostly from the train window as I went to visit my grandparents or later, when I commuted to university. I was born some 40 kms away. Up till 1945 Smolec was German, but as the war ended, most Germans were forced to leave. In a procession driven by skinny horses, a river of people started flowing West. They began in -30. Children did not know how to eat frozen the slices of bread rationed out. They moved 20 – 30 kms a day, just as I am now. The procession was endless, moving steadily at a pace you had to keep. If you slowed down and stayed behind, you were unlikely to catch up with your folks. Many children were lost. At one point her mother, Gertrude, was so exhausted that she sat down on a border stone and said she was done, she would not walk anymore. That’s when Cacilie grabbed her and said ‘I will slap your face until you start walking again.’ The mother listened. They all made it alive. I sat with Cacile for a couple of hours, belly laughing. She reminded me of my own grandmother – resettled from Lithuania to Wroclaw. What homes the German families left behind, the incoming Polish families were supposed to turn into homes. A shift that scarred both sides for life. She gives the best hugs. I will remember those the next time I sit down and feel like throwing in the towel. #gohomepolish @celfcymruarts

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Queso non è il primo progetto fotografico di Iwanowski legato al camminare: nel 2013 per esempio rifece a piedi il tragitto fatto da suo nonno quando scappò da un campo di prigionia russo per tornare in Polonia, durante la Seconda guerra mondiale; quelle foto sono raccolte in Clear of People.