Some time ago my brother was writing and complaining about wall street and financial thieves. I could not find my comment, but I remember I wrote back to him, that at least he knows who he is and where he is coming from…
One of my neighbors Tom although he does not speak polish he feels solely polish. His father was sent to Scotland as many polish soldiers during the WW2. I don’t know if he was actually fighting , but I know he could not come back to Poland after the war, it was due to the political circumstances at that time.
When Thomas was 5 his father has passed away, leaving a big gap, untold story.
During a few chats Thomas told me he has tried to find his family in Lublin, but it was really difficult as he does not speak polish. Also he found people of Lublin very official and unwilling to help. Totally different to people from Krakow, he said.
Being a good neighbor I have offered my help to Tom. Of course, I never have enough time and it took me long to get started.
I had a name of a place where Tom’s father was born, but there are 4 places with the same name. I started with one where I have located people with his surname. Than I have made a call to the parish church, but no one was answering. Next, few local offices, archives. Lastly one person from archives advised me to call the local governor of a village and ask there.
And, here we are, I found them, I am after a few calls with his family, his cousins. They invited Tom to come to Poland to see the grave of his grandparents, they even invited me.
Identity is a powerful thing. When Thomas was young he lived in a totally different reality than I live now, it must be a bit difficult to him, as he had a different appearance than his brothers and sisters. He had a dark hair just like his father and one sister, and not red as the rest of his Scottish family.
Connecting all this with photography, one of the best works I enjoyed lately is Genesis by Sebastiao Salgado. This is his advice to young documentary photographers “You should have a good knowledge of history, of geopolitics, of sociology and anthropology to understand the society that we’re part of and to understand yourself and where you’re from in order to make choices. A lack of this knowledge will be much more limiting than any technical ability.”