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 By the Creek, Opposite of a Meadow 

 Photographed in Slovakia, 2020 

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       The project serves as a map, examining locations tied to my parents' youth and memories vacationing in Slovakia and returning to places ingrained in my mind as my own childhood sites. 

 

What began by digitising archival imagery from my family’s holiday albums turned into an exploration of magical valleys, old towns, mystical forests, lakesides, as well as reconnecting with familiar sites that have not changed for decades. The photographs in family albums portray the way my parents used to spend summers in Slovakia during socialism; when the freedom of movement was extremely restricted. To travel and see the world was to be allowed only under very special and specific circumstances, unless one was connected to the communist party, which is why many could only travel locally.

 

By the Creek, Opposite of a Meadow represents an allegory to a dream-like place in rural Slovakia, where I used to spend almost every summer and winter as a child, situated by the creek and facing a verdant meadow opposite.

 

​Through reconnecting with my roots and analysing my relationship with the native land that I left as a young woman, this projects searches for the traces of my memories and childhood scattered in the contemporary Slovak landscape. The photographs portray nostalgia for youth in Slovakia, its complex political and historical climate, with the focus on places and people that I have left behind when moving away. Moreover, it examines a trans-generational connection to our native environment, including understanding the remnants of socialism that continue to be present in countless locations across the country.

The 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.

MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow

By the lookout

 

Photograph titled by my grandfather, circa 1983 - 1984.

MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow

What once used to be a popular public swimming pool.

MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow

By the Creek

 

Photograph titled by my grandfather, circa 1973.

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MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow

“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 around, eastern part of Slovakia.

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Easter holidays, circa 1973

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Local Shepherd

My late grandfather Ernest used to live in the eastern part of Slovakia almost his whole life. He made friends wherever he went, especially with the locals. One of my treasured recollections is seeing him arrive to the house with fresh cheese and sheep's whey from local shepherds that he used to drink almost every day.

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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. The views from the site were unforgettable, with the white, snow covered mountains in winter or the greenery and forest flowers in summer. 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.

MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow

1989

MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow

1989

MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow

Old Utopias

 

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.

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MichaelaNagyidaiova_BytheCreekOppositeofaMeadow
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By the lake and on an artificial beach, in eastern Slovakia. From my family’s holiday albums, 1981.

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 2021 | Michaela Nagyidaiová