These images, are to me, the most important that I have created to date.
They are important to me on many levels: emotionally, creatively and
historically. They have shaped both my person and my career.
On the 2nd February 1994 [ my 24rd birthday ] I entered Poland and was
quizzed repeatedly at the border: Name: Bronislaw Kózka...ne movie pop
Polshu, I don’t speak Polish. The guards could not understand why I have a
Polish name but can’t speak Polish. I also wondered this myself... I’d
always been fiercely proud of my heritage but I just never learned the
I had come to Poland to travel and see the country my family came from but
I was also looking for something else. I wanted my own picture of Poland,
not my father’s heroic pre WW2 Poland [ alluring as it was ] or the drab
communistic 1970’s memories of my aunt. I wanted my own interpretation of
Poland, I wanted to understand its relevance to me. I did not
intellectualize this too much while travelling, I just looked, saw, and
Before visiting Auschwitz I had no idea the impact it would have on me. I
have always had a good knowledge of WW2 and the Holocaust, I had been to
Dachau in Germany and I had read alot. My expectation was that I would be horrified, that it
would be awful... I’d learn something from the experience and I’d be on my
way. The strongest memory is standing in the bitter cold looking to a foggy
horizon and seeing what looked like columns: they were not columns they
were chimney stacks for as far as I could see. One chimney, one hut... the
magnitude of the horror dawned on me at this moment.
I didn’t want to take any photographs at first... I felt it was
inappropriate. I was reminded of the snap-happy american tourists at Dachau
and what I thought of them. However at some point I did decide to shoot. I
had no grand plans for the images, I just started shooting. Maybe it put a
filter between me and my location or maybe it’s just how I see best, I’m
After being there for several hours it started to get dark, it was time to
leave. I can’t even begin to describe my feelings and emotions while there.
I only hope the images can convey what the words can not. I drove back to
Krackov, through Wilamomitz: my family’s town. It was here that the most
frightening and daunting revelation occurred to me. How close my family was
to Auschwitz! How easily they could have ended up there rather than in the
Russian labour camp they were deported to. My Grandmother, a jew converted
to Catholicism and married to a Polish army officer, my father and uncle...
all could have ended up in Auschwitz...who would I have been then? Would I
have been at all?
The holocaust ceased to just be a historical event it became something very
real to me.
When I returned to Melbourne I did nothing with the images for six months.
I didn’t even develop the films for about for about four months. Finally I
decided to print up the images, black and white prints. The images have since been used on several educational websites, one of the images, a composite montage has become a book cover [The World of My Past - Abraham Bidderman].
I did not really discover what Poland meant to me - I’ll need a few more trips to arrive at that conclusion - but I did learn something new about myself and I certainly learned something new about my art.