By the Creek, Opposite of a Meadow
Photographed in Slovakia, 2020 , ongoing
My parents once said that the chill of crossing borders and feeling like “an escapee” 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 contrasting youth-hoods experienced against the backdrop of two contradictory political systems - socialism and democracy.
Occasionally, my parents tell me stories about illegally tuning into Radio Free Europe or how they couldn’t cross the border and visit Vienna even for a day, as we have been doing since I was born. The stories bring me back to times I cannot possibly know, times before 1989 when the freedom of movement was extremely restricted. That’s why, my project serves as a “map of utopias”, examining locations tied to my parents’ youth and memories of vacationing within Slovakia and returning to places ingrained as my own childhood sites.
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 portray a trans-generational connection to our native environment and to understand the remnants of socialism that continue to be present in countless locations within Slovakia.
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, where my mother would spend her holidays almost every summer.
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 of my great-grandfather.