Back in Warsaw

It was not only the carnival in my hometown Cologne that gave me a pretext to travel to Warsaw during the last weekend. For the preparation of my next photo book on the remaining Jewish heritage in Eastern Europe I collaborate with an excellent Polish designer – Ania Nałęcka-Milach. But I also took the opportunity to stroll through the streets and backyards of Praga, situated on the east bank of Vistula River, and to have a look on the new museum documenting Bródno Jewish cemetery.

Ania Nałęcka-Milach is one of Poland’s most prominent book designers specialized on photo books. Having myself not too much distance to – or maybe opposite, a too critical eye – on my own photos, I wanted to collaborate with somebody not being familiar with my work and the places represented in the images. Somebody who would sort out pictures, line them up and create a story. Ania did that perfectly. Now it’s time for me to work on text and captions. We will continue the design works in summer, so the book – titled ‘In Fading Light’ – will be published in fall by Berlin’s Lukas Verlag.

Being in Warsaw is always a great opportunity to meet old and new friends: Natalia of the Jewish Museum and Rafal, a human rights activist, Renata from Lviv, who studies now in Warsaw, Magda, journalist, photographer and whirlwind, and Adam who returned after having been expelled in 1969 from his hometown Warsaw. Thank you dear friends, I was glad to spend time with you!

On Saturday I took my time to stroll through the backyards of Praga, once a mainly Jewish neighbourhood, a district of poor Jews. Some traces are still visible – mezuzot at door frames and an old shop sign. On Monday Adam took Magda, Renata and me for a walk to other parts of Praga. This part of the city remained a place of the poor after the war. Now, Praga becomes a fancy location and a place of massive gentrification. New buildings displace the old ones. Obviously, there are many winners after the fall of Communism – but there are also those, who were unable to adjust to the new European and global age. A picture of Mary with a swastika that I took in a doorway might be a sign of how confused they feel.

Good news come from Bródno cemetery. After the cemetery has been fenced in, a museum opened just ten days ago, documenting the history of the place – including its destruction after the war. It is due to the commitment of Andrzej Jankowski and his colleagues that sources on Bródno’s cemetery were collected and are now available to the public. Andrzej gave us a guided tour through the museum before we walked to the center of the cemetery terrain, there were the extracted tombstones were piled up. As usual, the place overwhelmed me.

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