A Sense of Direction - PhMuseum

A Sense of Direction

Michaela Nagyidaiová

2019 - Ongoing

Czech Republic; Greece

During the Greek Civil War that occurred right after the II World War, many children and people fled Greece from the affected areas. Some of them were placed into former communist/socialist countries such as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania or Eastern Germany. Former Czechoslovakia accepted almost 13,000 Greek Civil War refugees. No one knew how long they would have to remain in the country.

My grandmother was born into a Macedonian family in northern Greece and was forced to escape her village when she was four years old. In 1948, she arrived into former Czechoslovakia and went through four different orphanages for Greek and Macedonian children. She only managed to find a place of temporary stillness in one of them - a children’s home that had been created in an old manor in the town of Nové Hrady. At the time, places such as bathhouses, sanatoriums and manors were used as ‘shelters’ and ‘homes’ for the arrivals.

The first part of the project was photographed in April 2019, when my grandmother and I travelled to the former children’s home together. It focuses on her connection with the orphanage in Nové Hrady that she still calls ‘one of her homes’. The work wishes to rethink her notion of ‘home and belonging’ since she had to leave her home country and never lived there again. Similarly, it delves into how some layers of memory possibly reappear when revisiting and rediscovering a place significant, memorable to one.

Similarly, I decided to make photograms in the darkroom to show particles and objects that were collected by my grandmother and myself in the surroundings of the children’s home, where she used to live for a few years.

II.

My aim in the second part of the work is to focus on the period specifically during the Civil war in Greece. I travelled to my grandmother’s birthplace and documented its atmosphere, landscapes and some of the very small local community that still lives in the village, which is probably around 20-30 people. Many of the locals left during the war or decided to move away afterwards.

Additionally, I chose to re-do my grandmother’s migration journey, which she had to undergo herself in 1948 when arriving in former Czechoslovakia with other children. This branch of the project wishes to capture the separation caused by the Civil War, as thousands of children were isolated from their families and many of them were not repatriated back to their homes even after the war. Through this project, I would like to reveal a place that had been deeply affected by trauma and conflict as well as departures of many families to other places to find a new 'home' during the war and after it. This work wishes to illustrate how not only families were torn apart, though also the whole community living in the village.

The finished product will consist of documentary-style photographs from the location and its surroundings that were affected by the conflict, archival imagery from Slovak and Greek archives, personal archives, a collection of envelopes showing communication between a family that was scattered around the world because of the war.

Please note: Most of the photographs that I am submitting are from the first part of the project, as the second part is currently in the stage of post-production. I am, however, also adding five photographs from the second part of the project, the file names are called “new”.

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