"There was a border there"

Ania Klosek

2019 - Ongoing

"There was a border there" is a journey along the former Polish-Soviet border, existing until the USSR aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939. This is a story about the old Polish border in a new Ukrainian state.

This trip led me to the small villages and towns of today's Ukraine. In search of the story of the border that 80 years ago passed through these areas, I was travelling to places where roads suddenly end, to forgotten cemeteries, to villages that are gone or those that soon be empty.

From this journey emerges the image of everyday life in Ukraine, distant from the cities and the rush of the modern times, where the rhythm of the day is governed by the time of milking and grazing, and the roads are mainly full of 30 and 40-year-old Lada cars.

This is a Ukrainian borderland. A land of complexity. Formerly Poland was there, and now it is closer to Poland than to Kiev – people say with a smile. Most young people either work or already worked in Poland. They leave Ukraine. To work, to have a better life.

There are almost no Poles in the old border areas. Mainly Ukrainians live here, some of them had Polish grandparents, but there are not many of them.

Where are the Poles from your village? They left, were murdered, died – the people from my photographs answer.

Stories from the old days remained in the people’s minds and hearts. The oldest remember Poland, they remember poems and songs they learned at Polish schools. Some of them are distorted by memory and time, others are recited in impeccable pre-war Polish language.

“And those living on the other side of Zbrucz river are called Moskals. Like in the days of Poland, when Moskal stood beyond the river” – is what the village inhabitants living along Zbrucz river, explained to me.

The concept of border is ambiguous. The border, which by definition - divides, is also here a symbolic link, an invitation to talk, the beginning of the relationship that will be created between the author and the character, and in the micro-scale means Polish-Ukrainian dialogue.

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