I grew up in a rural property in Biezen near Czestochowa, in upper Silesia. The complex history of my country has had a huge impact on my life and family. Like most people, our family had lost nearly everything during the WWII, when both of my grandparents were sent to labour camps in the German part of Silesia. Upon their return our house was occupied by a number of displaced people and it was only thanks to other locals who returned to Biezen my family was able to reclaim the farmland and what was left of it.
The house I grew up in served as quarters for the German and later Russian commanders during the WWII. The War left its permanent marks with shells and memories embedded in walls and on the whole local community. One day in the 90s me, my sister, dad and grandma drove to visit the camp where my nana spent 6 years during the war. It was a huge day for everyone. Despite being quite young, I felt it was quite important and I felt lucky to witness it.
When I was growing up, I was surrounded by nature but also a hard physical labour and rather harsh Polish climate, which I loved and hated at the same time. In our working class neighbourhood, in communism, 40-50 years after WWII, nobody had any money. So nobody could afford to go out and be entertained. Everybody’s social life happened at a house or while working, or on a street outside your home. When you finished your farm work chores of course. I learnt to play a piano accordion and together with my childhood friend, we entertained anyone who was willing to listen to our tunes, children from the neighbourhood, random passersby, all sitting quietly listening..
When my friend turned 18, he died in a car crash with three other people. I remembered that loss for long, for so long in fact that I created an artwork about it 19 years later, it’s called ‘Balancing Act’.
Life as a child under Communism was simple and unburdened with excess or luxury. I vividly remember queuing for hours outside the grocer’s to buy rationed food. The queues sometimes buzzed with lively conversation, more often with resignation. As a child I made a promise to myself to learn as many languages as I could in order to be able to leave and explore the world. It was a rather preposterous dream in times when I was a child.
Growing up in the world where men played cards, children listened to war stories veiled in thick cigarettes smoke, it was a remnant of a beautiful place that has slowly been replaced with different, sometimes lacking digitised version. I embraced it, fast. I developed a passion for foreign languages and geography. The idea of travelling was irresistible, it was in London when the two worlds collided and I followed my heart to Australia in 2009.
Travel has hugely inspired my interest for other cultures and involvement in the community and volunteering. After completion of Ballarat Multicultural Ambassador program I was sponsored to undertake a Leadership Program. I’m still an active participant of some of the local grassroots initiatives. And I still travel to learn more.
Your life is your message. Live it the best you can.