/ Kamil Śleszyński / Photo story


Mother died first. But for a time, she came to her daughter whenever she woke up crying. The household said that at night they had heard footsteps and the steady creaking of the cradle. And the crying stopped. However, the family wanted the mother to stop coming. That’s why, following the advice of a neighbor, they scattered peas in the room. It helped.

Then the Soviets came for father and took him away. They were also looking for his few years’ old daughter, but he lied that she died of tuberculosis. In fact, the child was hidden in the grain stack by good people and was sitting there for several days, long after the NKVD left.

After all this, neighbors were saying that maybe there was something wrong with the family, that someone bewiched them.

Father never returned from exile. There are only a few photos left of him. Daughter believed her father was still alive. One day after many years of searching, she received a death certificate. Cause of death: pulmonary tuberculosis. She wanted to find his grave, but trips around the Soviet Union were difficult. She did not live to see better times. She died young after a chronic disease. Just like her mother.

Passing on the intergenerational trauma has had a big impact on my life. Unconfronted grief influenced the next generations of our family. With time, this grief faded away until it finally took an indefinite form of emptiness that has been with me since I can remember. I think it was kind of an unconscious solidarity with the person that experienced this terrible things in the first. My mother received this „gift” from her mother and then she passed it on to me.

Or maybe this trauma is not real? Maybe I made it up, imagined it. Maybe I needed it to explain my life somehow. Everything that is incomplete in it, not matching my vision.

Or maybe that’s what I am. Marked with a trauma that does not exist. One that would explain everything that gives a picture of the future. Being rooted in the past.

Kamil Śleszyński (1982) – self-taught documentary photographer, author of photo books. His work focuses on complex topics related to social isolation and identity. He lives and works in Podlasie, Poland.