By the Creek, Opposite of a Meadow
Photographed in Slovakia, 2020
Read and view the project on Blind Magazine, Calvert Journal or Wellcome Photography Prize's account.
My parents once said that the chill of crossing borders and feeling like a fugitive had stayed with them since socialism. Instead of focusing specifically on borders, I wished to pay attention to what's within - the places where my parents were seeking "a sanctuary, an escape" throughout the past system in Slovakia.
Serving as a connection between my parents' and my own recollections of youth, the core of the work are childhood memories. I explored the historical and political climate of Slovakia, through our very different youth-hoods. When my parents were growing up, leaving the country, even for a specific amount of time to go abroad, was a utopia that one could experience only under strict conditions. To travel and see the world throughout socialism was allowed under specific and special circumstances, unless one was connected to the communist party.
The project serves as a map that examines locations tied to my parents' youth and memories of vacationing in Slovakia as well as returning to places ingrained in my mind as my own childhood sites. Inspired by family albums, which portray my parents' holidays in Slovakia during socialism, I planned a journey across the country by mapping locations written on the found photographs. It eventually turned into an exploration of magical valleys, old towns, mystical forests, lakesides, as well as revisiting familiar sites that have not changed for decades.
Through reconnecting with my roots and analysing my relationship with the native land that I left as a young woman, this work's intention is to also search for the traces of my memories and childhood scattered in the contemporary Slovak landscape. Portraying a trans-generational connection to our native environment, understanding the remnants of socialism present in countless locations within Slovakia; the images revive youth-hoods experienced against the backdrop of two contradictory political systems - socialism and democracy.
A place that hasn't changed
My grandfather's flat, where he once used to live with his family in central Slovakia. Everything has remained exactly the same inside the rooms for 30 years, since my great-grandmother passed away there. Each room in this flat preserves its many secrets. As one walks through it the preservation of old memories, systems, traditions is very palpable.
What once used to be a popular public swimming pool.
By the Creek
Photograph titled by my grandfather, circa 1973.
“Property of the State” written on a building, eastern part of Slovakia.
An empty box of matches with the European flag symbol found left on the grass, eastern part of Slovakia.
Easter holidays, circa 1973
A Hotel Mural
My stare was always fixated on this mural. Perhaps I was attempting to decipher it, even as a child. We visited the hotel a couple of times, some time around late 1990s and early 2000s. Every time we came, I wondered why the hotel doesn't look more like the rural, wooden houses portrayed on the mural. I only discovered later that it was built in 1964 in the style of socialist realism.
Travelling abroad during socialism was not easy, especially financially and bureaucratically. One of the many Slovak utopias was to be allowed to visit former Yugoslavia. But even that was extremely difficult, as Yugoslavia was considered not as "devoted" to communism like other countries in USSR or countries dominated by the USSR. The preparation for visiting foreign, even socialist or communist countries consisted of months, as no one could travel anywhere without state’s approval.
By the lake and on an artificial beach, in eastern Slovakia. From my family’s holiday albums, 1981.
Czechoslovak socialist passport.