Waiting for the snow

Katarzyna and Marianne Wasowska

2018 - Ongoing

This work takes it roots in very specific phenomenon of polish migration to South America, in the time of Poland's partitions. We focus on Brazilian and Argentinian cases, the biggest destination points, which for sure at that time were perceived by migrants as very unknown and exotic.

We are highlighting this side of European colonization in America which is hardly known, because it had totally different nature than others. In central Europe, colonization has been run as a proper advertisement campaign, which purpose was to colonize areas in order to take a benefit out of them, pretending they were not habitated. In Brazilian case, purpose was also to find workers to replace slaves after abolition and to fulfil governments plan of making Brazil white. In Argentina, the plan was mostly based on the idea that only european workers could properly work on building the dreamt modern society.

This migration politics strongly influenced the way migrants could define themselves and build a relationship with new land, which is specially important since most of them were farmers. Polish descendants nowadays (after around 100/150 years) are still actively cultivating their ancestors traditions and language.

By using our own photographs, archival documents and family albums, we wish to create multilayered visual story. On one hand we work collecting tellings from the collective memory about the country of origin and the beginnings of settlements in a new homeland. On another hand, we focus on creolization and mix of cultures, observing how the slavonic background got sincretized with south american context, creating a notion of identity which placed between reconstruction, fiction and fantasy.

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  • A way going into the Parana jungle, Brazil.

  • Archival photograph from the family archive of Guizelia De Almeida Wronski, Mallet, Brazil. Polish settlers probably cutting down the forest to build a colony. End of XIX century, exact date unknown.

  • One of the first houses of polish settlers in PR, Brazil. Build in the typical Polish architecture style from the village. Sloping roof - so the snow can fall in the winter. Wooden construction typical from the XIX century. Recently moved from the town of Thomaz Coelho, Araucária, PR, Brazil to "Bosque João Paulo II" in Curitiba, Brazil.

  • Pocket for travel documents of one of the transatlantic carriers with the addresses of their offices in Europe and South America. Beginning of the 20th Century.

  • From the left: "Virgin forest" from the book Tadeusz Chrostowski "Parana, memories of travel" from 1914. Possible source of knowledge about the nature of destination country of migrants; Member of the association of descendants of Polish immigrants in Brazil - BRASPOL; Detail of the small river in Parana nowadays.

  • Image based on the stories about arrival in the new land. All the immigrants, were traveling with big the wooden cases ("baúl"), where they were keeping their goods. They were also easy target for port thieves, who were steeling their belongings and replacing them with rocks.

  • Mrs. Raczkowska, first generation of immigrants from Poland, Azara, Misiones, Argentina.

  • The ship "S.S Gelria" which was offering emigration voyages from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires from 1913. As there was no passenger port in Poland at this time, lot of emigrants were living among other places through Amsterdam.
    Original photograph is property of Carola Domańska, Azara, Misiones, Argentina.

  • Image based on the stories about the first years of settlement in the new homeland. Due to the hot climate, immigrants cooled traditional polish pickles in the rivers and waterfalls.

  • Third generation of Polish migrants, still speaking Polish. Rio Claro, Mallet, PR, Brazil

  • Family Kotecki (Maciey on the right side and his grandfather on the left side) trought generations were exchanging letters between the family which emigrated and the one which stayed in Poland. The letters are describing how is daily life, farming and health of the family that stayed.
    The archival photograph and the letter come from archive of family Kotecky, Santana, Cruz Machado, Brazil.

  • A settelment of guaraní indians. The question of indigeneous people's presence when first migrants arrived is complex and controversal, since until today not all the migrants recognize they've been living in those lands from long time before their arrival. Now guarani communities still live in this area in a semi nomadic way.

  • Archival photograph of Yerba mate plant made by Pedro Tarnowski - one of two (the second was his brother) first polish photographers of Apostoles, Misiones, Argentina. Photograph from archive of family Tarnowski, Apostoles, Misiones, Argentina.

  • Image based on a memory told by Jana Raczkowski from Apostoles, Misiones, Argentina. When first migrants arrived they didn't know how to fight ants, specially big and strong in this region. Desperate because they were eating up all their plantations, they began to pray them so they stop. Their nests, named tacuru from guarani language, can reach two meters high.

  • Enjoying a bath, picture from Tarnowski's archive, Misiones, Argentina.

  • Painted photographic portrait "Monidło" of Mr. Raczkowski, who came from Poland in the beginning of XX century. Painted photographs were very famous in Central Europe before era of colour photography.

  • Rio claro, Mallet, Parana, Brazil

  • Fifth generation of Polish migrants in Colonia de Rio Claro, Parana, Brazil ; In the middle hotograph of the boat crossing the Parana river from Tarnowski archive. ; A birth certificate. As Poland was under foreign partitions. Polish where getting documents from the "invaders" of the region - in this case Russia.

  • Night vue of Parana jungle, Brazil.

  • Gabriel Enriquez, second generation descendant, in the Park of the Nations of Oberá, Misiones