Poland glossary










Katy Bystrzyckie


August 1999



Section 1
Could you introduce yourself, tell me how old you are, what your education is, your profession?
Ewa Konikowska, Iím 39. I graduated from the State Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, department of painting, graphics and sculpture. Apart from painting, graphics and sculpture, I also take photographs, I write and so on.

How come you are here at the moment? You were born elsewhere...
In Bydgoszcz. We were invited by my old professor from the graphics workshop in Poznan, Mr. Jacek Rybczynski, to the old lime kiln that he was renovating in Stara Morawa. He used to invite students to work there, sort of cheap labour force. That was my first visit to the Sudety mountains. But I must say, Iíve always had inclinations to go away from people, to some sort of wilderness, forests, Iíve never been keen on the city. Iíve always felt fine when there was some peace and quiet around me. So, when we found ourselves here, in that seclusion Ė after all we were all grown up Ė some sort of subconscious decision must have been made, I decided it was a good place. So, the rest of the academic years were spent looking for such places, I mean to find a home, to settle down.

Letís talk about your childhood then. What are your childhood memories?
A window [laughs] and through that window... the view from the window.

What was it?
The Brda river, old parish church, old town in Bydgoszcz and old warehouses. Anything else from my childhood?

Yes, please.
Mayday parades! [laughs] Right before my window, one of the sub-parades joined the main one. It was like a sort of a marathon. There were cyclists as well. Some time later, I bought myself a similar bike, when I was a student.

What did your parents do?
My father was the chief accountant with one of the municipal companies in Bydgoszcz. My mother was a nurse. Both of them came from... I mean, my father came from the country; my mother came from a small town, from Swiecie. That was also one of my favourite places. I liked going there; Iíve got very fond memories of the place. There was also such an old parish church [laughs], and an old castle nearby... And there was this totally different kind of silence there. After all, Bydgoszcz was quite a noisy town back in the 1960s, especially when compared with such a small town. Small houses, quiet streets, chestnut trees on both sides...
Section 2
Later, you went to a secondary school in Bydgoszcz too, didnít you?
Yes, I went to the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Bydgoszcz. Took me five minutes to get there.

So why Poznan later on?
I thought... that Academy seemed to be a good Academy of Fine Arts. And the nearest one too. There was also Gdansk and Torun. Torun did not have a reputation of being too avant-garde, it had all those various departments, but I didnít find it attractive. And there was Poznan, well, I donít know, it somehow happened.

How did your life change then?
A lot! I mean... it was then that I was left alone with myself and my talents. And with the unknown. I met all those strange people who also wanted to become artists Ė or they were Ė and it was this kind of atmosphere that attracted me a lot. At the same time, it scared me. I didnít feel safe on my own yet. But later, it was alright.

What do you mean you were ďleft aloneĒ?
I mean I had to rent a flat, or a room, there was nobody to cook dinners for me, there was no-one to ask me questions about my whereabouts, nobody to check what time I was back home, nobody interfered with my thoughts.

Where did you get those talents from? I mean, was there anyone who had to help you get them out to the light?
I think I took after my grandfather, my motherís father. But I didnít know him; he died in Siberia during the war. He was a simple man, painted walls, but he left a number of oil pictures. I have always regarded them as beautiful. They were sort of landscape pictures, not too sophisticated. But they were well constructed, composed and... Thatís all about my grandfather. My mother didnít have any talents, only myself and my twin sister.

Tell me about your sister.
She wanted to study medicine, but in the end, she took up fine arts as well. She set up a computer graphics studio, so sheís into art as well, only in a different way than myself.

Did she choose a different lifestyle, does she live in a big town?
She stayed in Bydgoszcz.

Do you often go back there?
I wish I did more often.

What about Christmas?
Christmas is a difficult story. This house, because of the state itís in, cannot be left in the winter. Somebody has to be here. At Christmas we want to be together, so itís during the summer or the winter holidays that I usually go to Bydgoszcz with the child, and my husband stays here and looks after the house in this wilderness. You have to heat it in the winter...
Section 3
What recollections of Christmas have you got? I mean, when you still lived at home.
Very nice... with a bit of an emptiness, however. Because they were not the typical Christmas, I mean, you didnít go crazy over Christmas. I mean there was nothing special about them... I mean, the traditions were kept, but there was something missing there. Still...

And here, now that you have your own family, do you add this element of craziness?
For example, before the child was born, I remember one of the New Year days we spent on our own here, in this old house. At midnight, we went out with a calendar from 1939, something Iíd found when I was in Poznan, in some sort of a cellar, and we scattered some of the pages from that calendar across the village. I preferred to keep those pages, so we scattered only some of them. We kept the rest. You know the year 1939, this land was German back then, and you know, we had this breakthrough period, from the old to the new... and there was so much of the old, things that you would associate with the Germans, the war, the barbarian behaviour of the Poles around here...

What attracted you to these mountains around here?
[husband joins in] I was brought up by the sea all the time, so I wanted a change. Mountains are more interesting than the sea, both because of their structure and visually, and they can be conquered.
[Ewa] Yes, you can conquer these, they are very nice.
[husband] This is what I still find attractive; Ewa doesnít feel like climbing.
[Ewa] I canít walk too much, my spine...
[husband] Mountains are interesting, different than flatlands. Besides, itís like the end of the world for us. Well, the end of the country, anyway. My home town is 500 kilometres away from here. And that is good. You cannot stay in one place all the time.

Do you think you will ever move away from here?
[Ewa] Iíd like to, but the costs would be enormous. We have paid a high price here Ė I mean our health Ė for this house. First, we stayed in that old house, it was damp, and we couldnít afford to renovate the upstairs, for example, and live on the second floor. And when we started adapting that old barn, the costs were enormous Ė both psychologically and economically etc. I know what it means to have a change, especially to change houses. I would love to. There are so many places in the world that I like. I mean, basically, through literature or films. If I were given a choice, shown several places on earth, Iím sure Iíd find something interesting. And Iíd like to be somewhere again, be there for longer. When you are somewhere for longer, you have time to have a closer look, observe, give names to the various things, to find yourself in another kind of silence that enables you to open yet another door. Iíd love to, but the costs are enormous. Unless there was someone to cover them [laughs] Ė then Iíd be more than interested. And it would be good for the child as well. We once had this conversation with my husband. How good it would be if the child could travel the world, having a place to stay during that journey at the same time, like sailors do Ė that would be good too. To see various places, meet various people, experience various times, various moons etc. To be able to develop.
Section 4
In what direction have you two developed living here for the last ten years?
Iím afraid everyday problems get us a bit down to earth, but I think I developed. In what direction? Towards such experiences that would allow me to observe. To be able to see, for example, to see more than just green or yellow leaves in the tree outside my window. I mean, the spiritual changes after which you become more real. I mean, either you give things new names, or you draw them differently, or photograph then differently than most people would. Sometimes it can happen that you photograph it the way nobody has so far.

How has your artistic life changed?
It has changed... I mean, I started creating art when I was at the Academy, so when I moved in here, I continued what I started back then on the basis of being here. It is interesting, there were obstacles, I was ill Ė the spine problems Ė and the child was so small, and we had no conditions to have a study... When we were working on the renovation, I worked all the time, I wrote, I participated in exhibitions Ė all the time. In practice, I did not have long breaks in my artistic life. Maybe my development got slower at times, but I donít think thatís anything bad. If you do things slowly, you do them more carefully.

What are you trying to express in your paintings?
I think it would be up to others to say. There are art critics who wrote about the Academy (the Small Academy of Art that she created for children) or my creations, and they sometimes could name that better. I am no art critic; Iíd rather quote ... A few sentences that best describe it. Well, maybe we could come back to it after a break? [break]

So what is it you are trying to express through your art?
Yes, I said there are others who can describe that better, so I could use some quotes. The editor-in-chief of the Ziemia Klodzka magazine, who recently wrote about the Academy said, ďWhen she paints or draws, the colours and shapes are not supposed to enchant, they primarily talk about the understanding and the necessity to understand the thing drawn, whatever it is. And when she teaches or educates the children, both hers and othersí she does with a deep conviction that the ability to observe the world, and to compose it later on a piece of paper by means of a crayon will serve those children in making their lives good and beautiful.Ē Thatís Stanislaw Tomkiewicz. What else...? Hard to find the right place [shuffling pages]. Oh, there are some praise... Tomek Pawrega, a local journalist, a student of philosophy, he writes, ďItís difficult to conceive of the vast amount of work that Ewa Konikowska has put into the opening of her exhibition.Ē Itís about the childrenís gallery: ďItís as if summing up of the 1.5 years of work with a large group of children from the primary schools in the District of Stronie Slaskie. Taking part in the workshops organised by Ewa, I was able to witness her enormous strength and dedication to the extremely difficult undertaking. Everyone present at the opening ceremony will know what I mean. Those who were not there should know that sheís achieved the first point of her efforts and dreams. Both the workshop and the gallery are open and running. It is with great satisfaction that I, an inhabitant of Stronie, can say that our children had the privilege to be among the first ones to work under Ewaís direction. I believe it was the most important art event in the last six months, and it definitely was the most attended event by the inhabitants of the Biala Ladecka valley.Ē
Section 5
What do you most often paint, depict?
[silence] How to describe thatÖ itís not easy to say. I donít recreate reality, I mean, I donít draw photographically, realistically, but I always want to say something about a given object. Without making stories up... I mean, if it is a fragment of a hill with a fence, some trees Ė they somehow, after all those years of being together, it is as if get connected to each other. Itís like the grass getting through the railings of the fence; a larger fragment of the reality speaks for itself. And then I want to show that the fragment speaks to us. I donít want to depict the grass, the tree, the fence in isolation from one another. I want, however difficult it is, show all those objects speaking together, and a specific way, when I look at them, see those trees, those twigs intermingling, each tree inclined at a different angle. They form a unity, though each is still different. Therefore, they are like persons... persons talking to each other, who describe each other with just their appearance. This is then a sort of graphics... well, a sort of graphics is created then... Well, itís difficult to describe that; you would need an art critic. If I work through a camera lens, and earlier I am impressed by the colour of an object, that colour will have to sort of sing to me, or shout, or say something quietly... It is a sort of conceptual art. But at the same time, I donít consider myself to be a conceptualist, although this concept is important all the time because it shows the reality which is conceivable. It is not an art in itself, itís more interdisciplinary, it is not a theory in itself; it sort of makes you see.
When I was working for my diploma, I took all the examination board members out of the Academy, to the forest, into the nature virtually. When the head asked me what my project was about Ė it was when weíd got there, we were among those birches Ė what they were supposed to be doing, I told them to follow me. And by going to different places, watching a given birch from different angles, I gave them a chance to see that tree in a certain, chosen way. So, it was like walking through the nature, but not just walking for its own sake. Rather walking in order to create a chance to be, to be silent, to think, not to rush along with the rat race, to begin to understand, not to hurry, absolutely not to hurry, to stop from time to time. That work of mine was derived from my being here. It was then that I understood how my art activities were influenced by my stay in Katy. Not the fact of sitting in front of the canvas or a piece of paper, or the fact of having read something. No Ė it was the fact of having been here.
Iím trying to persuade the children to be like myself. Iíve got a programme for children. That programme can be implemented at any time, or it doesnít have to be implemented at all Ė thatís above all. You know, here, weíve got a different reality, different to the school educational reality. There is no obligation, a child can stop at any moment, he or she can be withdrawn from the programme. You could say that the children follow their own programmes, and Iím trying not to disturb them. Iím only trying to help them find their own way, and I think thatís what it is all about...

Do you think one can profit more when youíre faced with such a reality rather than with a shaped vision of yours?
You have to be prepared to receive the vision. If you choose a route, you go somewhere, you stop on your way, leave the car on the side of the road, and you jump for a moment into a room or something. Well, you can only have a McDonald then. But in order to... What Iím saying is that you need some sort of a passage. If I put here an information board on which Iíll write Ė Small Academy of Art, Childrenís Gallery or whatever Ė it will be nothing, it will be like leaving your car and getting into a wayside restaurant. But if I build here something of stone, and someone will have associations with Greece, or Turkey, or an open-air theatre, or some sort of dignity Ė that person is well prepared.
Section 6
Are you trying to change something in the people through your art? How do they react to what youíre doing?
Iíd like to change... I mean, prepare the children. Someone would have to research into what you can change in grown-ups through the place youíre in, through the art of mine... And how much you can change in the children. Things like that are difficult to change. And the environment around here is rather difficult, I mean itís a poor community, poor spiritually I mean. I donít think you can change a lot in the adults, all you can get is a fleeting interest, a brief look. You can count on children more, the children of the parents who have no interests Ė I mean, apart from the basic existential ones. This is a difficult thing to do, change the children of such parents. Children coming from the homes in which nothing much happens are empty. Such children would have to often go to different places, places which can catch their interest, or reflect some sort of needs in them or their inborn talents. Really often. It cannot be the way it is Ė that someone in Ladek, some sort of Culture Centre, organises an event, invites an artist, some sort of a singer Ė because the child does not work with their own hands, the child does not touch anything then. They have to start digesting everything through their own actions. And then there is a chance for those children.

When you first arrived here, what were you plans for the future?
They were not defined. I wanted to be, I wanted to do what Iíd started at the Academy. There was something... Iíve got this power in myself, I didnít want to get disconnected from my childhood life, didnít want to lose the contact with my own creation (creativity?). I knew there was this strength in me, that I would start again, despite breaks, that it was impossible for me to become a housewife, only look after the house and the child, cook dinners. That would be absurd for me - although this is often the case with artists, especially women. But I knew this would not be my situation. I knew there was some strength in me, donít know where from. Maybe from touching the truth once, cause if you manage to get to some sort of truth once, to realise some sort of a problem, some event, if you managed to get the recognition from the critics... Well, if you touch the truth for a longer period of time in your life, it is difficult to give it up. Youíre looking for new truths. So, there was some sort of strength in me.
Well, I knew I was good with colours; that was already noticeable back at the Academy. I knew I somehow worked with the colours, they fitted where I put them. Later, it was named, classified, appraised. You can find that in various people, the kids, for example. There are some who have those talents, but they have nowhere to develop them, here in the small communities. And the teachers are unable to notice them, they are unable to help the kids. So they donít develop, remain unnoticed, and they do nothing, and that is the end.
Section 7
And when did you get this idea... is that your main occupation?
Well, before my son went to school. I mean, when he first went to school, when I had my first contact with the school. As I said, the kids around here donít have anywhere to develop their talents, they donít have the basic things that kids in towns do, in large cities. But what do they have? They have the silence. I think Iím going to quote myself now, it is so easy to understand if you put it that way. They have those graphics out of their windows, they have the colours in the winter, on their way to school, back home etc. And they retain that sensitivity theyíve got. I mean, every child has got it, but these kids here retain it, they canít develop it, they donít work on it, but they keep it somewhere in their brains, they donít lose it the way kids in the towns do. If you walk along concrete pavements, concrete blocks, shop entrances, supermarkets, you lose it.
These kids here, they sleep with that sensitivity, develop it subconsciously. They see the shapes of the terrain, the scenery, the white and the yellow in the meadows. They donít have to do anything with that; still they develop it in their brains. These kids have a chance to be wonderful artists, I mean in a broad sense, they donít have to go into painting, but more generally... They have this sensitivity in them, they develop it, and then... there is that critical period, critical age. When they are 12, 13, 14 years old, they touch the more adult reality, the various problems with school, that may be too late. It is important that the kids can move their hands in a proper time, before it is too late... work with that sensitivity of theirs, those powers of perception they have. When itís too late, they are lost. When they are 7, 8, 9 years old, then the time is best.

And if their perception does get changed, what do you think...
It canít be changed; it can only be developed.

...well then, if it does get developed, what will their lives be?
Better. Because a child like that will not go to the town only to do shopping. For example, they will get interested in galleries, one, then another... They will notice pictures, they will notice books, albums, it is the best way to leave that margin, that edge on which they live.

Letís get more down to earth. I wonder where you got money from. For example, for this house, since you donít have permanent employment...
We bought a hectare of land with the buildings. It was an old house, over 200 years old, and this barn comes from the pre-war period. As I said, the house was full of dampness, and there were many houses like that around - or just ruins, sometimes only foundations sticking out of the ground - but it is made from nice stones. We knew that when we were buying it, but got to experience it when weíd moved in. We didnít feel like continuing the programme of houses falling into ruin. We knew something had to be done, that we couldnít live as if imprisoned, with that dampness and all that, no insulation etc. At first, there was no chance. If weíd had money, we would have known what to do with the old house, or any other house. Well, something had to be done, otherwise the house would soon only just stick out of the ground in the form of a ruin, like so many others.
The times had changed: we could travel abroad, my husband started travelling abroad, earning money there. We sold an old flat of ours that my husband had in Poznan. And all the time money was collected in a bank, with the thought of the renovation. I also had some savings that my father put aside ages ago. Not much, but still... I also earned a little for my paintings. So we managed to collect some money to start the renovation. But we decided it was not enough to do up the house, so we decided we would adapt the old barn. It was as if it was a new construction site. There were stone pillars, there was the roof, and a lot of room for ideas, for construction, for adaptation. Thatís where we started off, with the little money we had. Later on, you had to economise on everything, think about earning more, my husband went abroad looking for work again...
Section 8
Your husband, heís a musician, isnít he?
Yes. So it was like playing earning money, but it was hard work, and my situation got difficult. I had to become as if a clerk, had to do with all those papers, go to offices, arrange everything, everything had to be done, permits obtained, designs prepared etc. Then there was employing people, professional and non-professional, sometimes people who only claimed they knew what they were doing. I donít think we should have started the whole project. Especially now that we cannot complete it. I donít have this comfort of having completed something and being able to concentrate on another project. There always are construction problems, repairs are needed, certain jobs have to be re-done.

Do you get any money from the authorities for what youíre doing with the kids?
I wish I did.

How do you make your living then?
As I say, itís from what I can... but thatís very little. Itís because the times have changed: what I could put aside some time ago now has to be spent on the most basic needs, paying the bills, living. I would like to have something like... I mean, I donít want to be a public institution, which is a very difficult thing to do anyway. In order to become a public institution you have to meet a lot of conditions. I donít want to turn myself into a clerk or an administrator of any sort, here in this Academy of mine. Otherwise, Iíll be finished as an artist, as someone useful for the kids. I would have to spend so much time being Mrs Director or Mrs Headmaster... thatís unthinkable.

And sponsors?
They are very few. Yes, Iím looking for sponsors, but you get discouraged. They often just make empty declarations. There are some people Ė however few Ė who want to help. There is this person, a Council Member from the town nearby, not my District, who sometimes makes offers, lends a car. He brings in all sorts of questionnaires and forms, you know, to get some money, however little. There was such a programme recently. You know, itís some assistance I get that makes you still believe in peopleís good will. It is important if I see there are people who believe that such a mission like mine Ė for it is a mission Ė is needed. People who see that Iím not doing that for myself, that I donít get anything out of it, people who see the heart of the problem. I think weíve drifted away from the main subject...

No, no, itís alright to drift away. What was the reaction of the people around here when you first arrived?
Iíve never thought about it, I would have to be inside those people. I would have to know what they feel. You know, there is a mixture of people here; there are some who settled here after the war, and these are very nice people. But there are also a lot of people who came later, not very sophisticated ones. These only had their share in changing some of the houses into a ruin. I mean, people who have nothing in common with us, absolutely nothing, people who look down at us. Maybe they donít look at us at all, I donít know.
Section 9
Who do you keep in touch with?
This is a problem.

Why a problem?
Because I... Well, itís a vast problem, because I donít have a car. We used to have a VW Golf, but it fell apart. We canít afford a new one, so going anywhere to see something happening is a problem for me. So, the contact sort of breaks down. I mean, with places and people with whom I would like to have contact. You know, itís a journey if you want to go somewhere, visit someone, someone with whom I could talk about what Iím doing. There is practically no one like that. Sometimes, very sporadically, I meet someone like myself. That is a problem because you need to talk about it, to confront your views with someone else. It is as important as that being on your own, having this peace and quiet, enjoying that emptiness of mine.
That is awful here, or generally in Poland - because I think there are places in the world where you can earn enough to put your kids into a car from time to time, visit people like yourself, and it is not a problem. Here it is a problem. Sometimes you read or see on the TV that there are disabled people somewhere in the world, with no arms or no legs, who get into their luxurious car, go to a library and so on... Here, I cannot spread my wings in that respect. I donít know if this means I have to quieten myself even more so that something extraordinary can be created, I donít know. We live here in such extreme conditions.

Have you tried to get in touch with the people living here, donít you care about that?
I am trying.

And among the simple people living over there?
[Indicating villages, houses built on the slopes of the mountains]
I donít have... do you know what it means when there is no dialogue? [silence] There is no meeting point.

And you donít mind it?
Iíve got so much work to do that I donít have time to mind it. Although I always say Iíd like someone to settle down here. There was a chance once. There was a composer from Vienna, of Polish origin. He built a wooden house over there; perhaps youíve seen it. It was great news to me! I thought, hell, a composer, musician, a rather elderly gentleman. But someone who comes from there, whoís an artist, cannot live only on his own. Theyíve got some spiritual needs as well. But he doesnít come here very often, maybe heís given up; maybe heís got no money to continue the construction, I donít know. Anyway, he hasnít settled here yet. The news was great. Yes, if there was someone like that around...
Section 10
Have you had moments of doubt, moments when you wanted to give up everything youíre doing here?
I have [laughs]. I often have, but... that strength of mine which I mention so often, this devilish power will not let me write ďThe EndĒ. This is a place I would call a voluntary exile.

What is it that discourages you?
All of the things I have already mentioned. The level of living, lack of understanding. I mean, I donít expect any... Iíve given up hope. The authorities, there are the neighbouring districts, like Stronie, Ladek. If Stronie dared to trust me, when theyíd read my programme and all the documentation of my proposals for children, that was something that took me by surprise. They said they would provide transport for the children. And they spend some 8000 zlotys per school year on the transport. Is that much or is that little? Apart from that, there is nothing. I think they, I mean Stronie, expect me to have so much strength, so many ideas, so much of I donít know what, to be able to cope on my own, to be able to promote the district at the same time etc. Yes, you are not mistaken; they expect me to give to them, to support them. They expect me to become yet another Mrs X or Mr Y - I wonít name names - who will attract money for the district. They expect me to have a fast car, to arrange meetings, to turn this old house into a museum overnight. This is what the District of Stronie expects from me, that I have to cope with, that I just have to. Well, they are partially right, if I went about setting up the Small Academy for children, then I am a responsible person. They donít take into account the fact that the reality is changing, and into the most unfavourable direction: what money is now spent on the culture, how many institutions are getting closed down, what financial constraints there are. They donít look at it that way. They donít put my proposals into the perspective of the ever-changing reality.

What do you miss most thatís available in the town?
Well, quick access to a shop where I could buy materials. Here, you have to organise a journey if you run out of something. Is it easier to buy something once a week or have a larger sum to spend twice a year? Well, I could buy five expensive pastels a week, and have a full set for the children to use all the time. Now, when you run out of them here because you havenít done any additional shopping for a long time, then you have to buy a full set for 500 zlotys at one go. Is it a problem? It is. These are important things.

What do you think, what would your life be like if youíd stayed in the town?
No idea [laughs]. My last days in the town, my feeling then, my memories of them, are like passing through the town in some sort of quick means of transport, as quickly as possible, to the Academy where I could do what I wanted to do. Returning home, to my study, where... Look here, I didnít need the town with all those... It was only passing from place to place for me, it was like unavoidable necessity. Thereís always too little inspiration there. Naturally, there are artists who exist in towns, because they have to exist. They open galleries, set up some advertising agencies, and they live in the town because they have orders there. Here, I cannot set up a company, an agency, because no one will come here with an order. Firstly, there is too little demand. Secondly, if you do have an order twice a year, how would I cope with the taxes?
Section 11
So, money is not important for you, is it?
No. The most important thing was to have a place on earth, where you can have this sort of unity with the land. I had such a place, my whole diploma is in the forest, in the scenery, it was only sealed with the text on paper. Whatís interesting is that I stick to it, and it was no computer-designed concept. Only, I have this kind of personality that will not let me go anywhere...
I wrote this text 12 years ago, when I was not living here yet, when I was not so strongly attached to any place, any terrain, any trees. Itís interesting that I... that diploma of mine... You know, there is a moment at the Academy that you have to know what youíre going to show as your diploma project, and where you are going to show it. Before I made my decision, I would walk up and down the streets of Poznan, looking for places where you could exhibit something. You know, it is not a big problem, there are galleries, museum, you can always find a place to stick your diploma project into. And there I was watching those walls, those confined spaces, smaller and larger, and I could feel it was impossible to show my project there. I simply felt there was some sort of a rope tightening around my throat, that I couldnít show things I wanted to show. They were supposed to be drawings, lines which describe something, say something about the links between the landscape, the architecture, animals Ė thatís how I described it... in few words.
I decided I had to find a place somewhere else, so I got on a train and went out of the town. It was a surprise for myself as well. Also, it was taking a risk. I mean thatís how others saw it. I was going to that diploma project certain of what I wanted to achieve, I was not afraid. I knew I was taking this examination board to the forest, I had prepared a route - it was not only the route, there were also art happenings that Iíd prepared. Long before I finished everything, my professor gave me the ďthumbs upĒ, everything was alright. And there was that text later on, a quote from somewhere in the middle: ďThe unnamed, the unperceived. It can be anything that governs perception. To discover one of the names here, call it with that name and leave. Leave in order not to take away anything, not to add anything. To touch. To be in a perfect union, to be able to identify yourself, to influence places, but to leave them intact. To move, to touch. Safe shapes, immobile shapes, mobile shapes, to have new shapes and known shapes. And thereís always a different distance, a different close-up, a different perception. To see a day of the bird, a day of the birch tree, a day of the night. And then Ė to see the non-existent. To look. Endlessly, to be like those places, to find your own lair, food, territory. To find your own different existence...Ē

Is this a fragment of a review?
No, itís a fragment of my diploma text. The title of it is The Unexpected Touch. My professor Ė a renowned art critic.

Is there anyone in the ďgreat big worldĒ who knows what you are doing here? Is there anyone interested?
The great big world is in a terrible hurry these days...

For what?
[laughs] For money, career etc. This is terribly far away, the place Iím in. But we did send out invitations, very nice ones, to the opening of the Childrenís Gallery, so the world knows, they received signals. But the world only knows. I mean, there have been a few persons, from time to time, I mean those from ďthe worldĒ. Thereís a review being prepared, a review that I wanted to have published so much. As a sort of opinion about me, about the rightfulness of what Iím doing here. This is no culture centre for children, itís only myself who uses such principles. Principles that they wouldnít get to like in secondary schools or art academies.
Section 12
What is it then?
First of all, itís breaking with all the rules which are the basis for the academies, at least during the first years, for the work with students. My principles would be seen as erroneous by them. I mean, if you take the traditional three-dimension perspective Ė there is nothing like that from the point of view of the human eye. And if I have a 11-year-old girl drawing a still life, with jugs, fruits, some sort of canvas, a floor, the surroundings. And with that floor, she does not illustrate the traditional 3-D perspective, only one angle of the floor goes in one direction, and the other Ė which is so easily noticeable by anyone Ė in a totally different direction, that means that she... that this is the physiology of perception, this is how she sees it. And this kind of perception has to be developed. I think I drifted away from the subject again.

No, no, itís alright. How do you bring up your own son?

How would you like to bring him up?
[silence] Upbringing...

Yeah, what is it?
Exactly. What you can suggest to a child, what the child suggests to you, whether we want to hear them... their needs, or not. Whether we respect their feelings... Upbringing is again books and the reality. I would like him to have a possibility Ė when he graduates from that grammar school of his Ė to choose a good secondary school, and that there would be no problem with that, taking into account the distance. I would like him... well, nowadays he writes something, he is... he took talents from me and my husband. Heís got a better ear than Wlodek, and a better voice, but thereís no way for him to develop musically here. It is too far to Klodzko, and taking him there twice a week to a musical school is beyond our possibilities. He took after me with all those artistic talents. Heís very good with the colour, drawing lines, and thereís this poem writing of his. [Her son started composing poems as early as five and a half; they were written down by the parents.] Itís very difficult to keep those talents. Not only keep, but also develop. He leaves home at 6.50 in the morning; returns at 3-4 pm. Thatís when Iím busy with the children, so we are a bit too little together. Well, he sometimes joins in, you know he met some friends among the kids, so heís got in contact with them somehow.

You said you would like to protect him from the ordinary life. If you could would you not send him to school?
No, if I could help it, he wouldnít go to Ladek.

Why? Whatís wrong with school?
Oh, it depends which school. We know all those schools and we donít hold them in high esteem.
Section 13
What do they offer such young children?
[smiles] The point is, they donít offer anything. They offer a lot of lessons, rote learning. Which means if you learn something that they told you to learn, you get a good mark and thatís all there is to it. Even the children who live in Ladek donít have anything to do there. Thereís nothing in Ladek. And here I am with a child who commutes to school by bus and... and what else? If he wanted to swim, Iíd probably have to get myself a helicopter or at least a car. The main problem is access to anywhere. I mean, this is not only a problem of my son, it refers to all the children around. I know children who come from very poor families, but they have lots of talents. And they have no chance to develop too. Ladek authorities will not finance the transport for their children here. Some of them would still have a chance, theyíve got artistic talents.

One more thing that interests me. How do the parents... How do you reach those children?
The children joined us once, and the new ones, those entering the school life, they know who the teacher was. Until recently, there was a coordinator for our Academy, there was a lady who made a list of the children attending our workshops. There are also some children who have always attended, and there is no problem with them. Well, sometimes there are problems. If two or three children are ill, you have to think about it, and you have to find the children who would like to attend more often but they donít know there are free places.

And their parents, whatís their reaction?
Well, Iíve had contact with... I know only about 5 per cent of the parents because they are the ones who got interested. Thatís my answer to this question. If the children were to bring with them a symbolic zloty or two, there would be fewer and fewer of them. The children themselves are not that aware; they are not that strong (motivated?) to keep coming. And the parents are not interested at all on the whole. I donít know what would make them interested, what could move them. I donít know, probably things like learning to fly planes or learning to make money at an early age. Yes, then the parents would be interested and see to it that the kids should attend the workshops. But if itís only about arts, the children are left to themselves. When I was a child, I got enrolled on workshops in an arts centre; I attended the classes twice a week etc. It was not far away from home, here the children come to school and itís them who have to remember that on that particular day there are workshops of the Small Academy of Art, that this is the day they go. It is asking a lot of a small child, isnít it? So that they remember they are on the list. And the parents? As I said, 5-10 per cent of them...

What have you learnt about life since you came here, what is the outcome for you of your exile?

Is there anything that you didnít know before?
[silence] Well, letís switch this off for a moment [pause for thought]. I learnt to respect these people who live here. There are two reasons for that respect. Because at first, I looked at them with indifference, even with some sort of pity, because they were to me people who cannot arrange their lives a bit better. And now I respect them because they have endured the hardships of this land and stayed here anyway. You know, with hard work... they had farms, difficult conditions, you know, under the communist rules, they had to give away to the state some of their crops etc. And they survived, endured it. They are ill people, most of them, but you will not hear them cursing at their lives. Here, far away from doctors, any kind of medical care, these people are for me worthy of the highest respect. From time to time, I write something about them, there are motifs that come out of their lives. I mean, there are pictures of a house and a cross next to it, the house with the cross, so to speak, as if the respect for whatís alive and what they managed to salvage. Another thing is I learnt to respect some of the people because they donít respect us at all. We have to be careful about what happens around here, ensure our dog does not harm their goats etc. The dog would have got killed.
Section 14
Do you sometimes regret your decision?
I have always thought it was a good decision. I wouldnít like to stay in the town, and if we stayed nearer a town, maybe there would be too much of it, although life could be a bit easier. I mean, there would be no peace and quiet, there would not be all those various conditions which enable you to think, to create... if not an imaginary world, but to create the world for yourself. Iíll give you a simple example. If you have a blank sheet of paper, thereís little drawn on it, you can always add things to it, canít you? This is the way things are here. Well, if you think of a town, full of everything, and compare it with this neighbourhood. Compared to town, this is a complete wilderness, emptiness. Because in such a comparison, the trees donít count at all, it is like with that blank sheet of paper.

There is a trend nowadays to run away from the town, to go to such places, with the emptiness everywhere, where you can start looking for your ďinner selfĒ. What do you think? Will there be people like that, running away?
I know this type of person here. There are those who renovated a house or something, in order to spend their free time here. But after that, they return to their own places, to the big cities. On the other hand, there are people who brought here, with them, the whole of their lives, and they got themselves knee-deep in mud. They lacked the strength to start everything anew. So they had to open shops, become small-scale entrepreneurs, they perform various functions here, among the ordinary people. But I also know Ė from publications Ė that there are people who succeed in starting their lives anew in places like this. I am here alone. They treat me like a madwoman. I will not bend; I will not stoop to paint easy pictures to get money. I will not stoop to work at school because they would reject my programme. And I could be there, with my programme, among the children and work with them. But I would have to turn one classroom into a workshop. And who will let me Ė here in Ladek Ė turn one classroom into a workshop? I will not stoop to change my profession because of the money. Itís a hard life sometimes, sometimes we had to borrow money...

Isnít it, by any chance, just a rebellion?
No. Iím not 20 or 15 years old.

Isnít it a rebellion against ordinariness then?
Thatís another kettle of fish.
Section 15
You mean itís something much more serious?
The fact that I am here, and what I am like is not the matter of rebelling just for the sake of it. And what you say about rebelling against these circumstances... Of course, Iím fed up with being in something like that. Because all of my concepts, those which are very realistic, not just made up Ė they can be put into life. It is not like writing a book, where you can loosen up your fantasy. If I could, in another reality, among other people, I could do much more, because I am prepared for that, Iíve been to good schools. Iíve got lots of ideas which cost little or nothing at all in terms of money. Itís only some response from the wider environment thatís needed. I donít get it here, so I cannot act. I could do a lot. Sometimes I write them down, those ideas. I think about organising art happening with this or that person. No, you canít. Because you would have to provide these people with transport. Hire two coaches.

You also write poetry. Thatís a totally different form of expression. Where did that come from?
Well, it turns out that a given truth can be reflected in another form. And thatís not that difficult. I didnít know about that some time ago. I mean, I liked reading some poets; I remember they had an influence on me, or perhaps just some expressions... found. I mean, it is enough to be sensitive, and then you look for the poetry yourself. I didnít know how, but it happened. I mean, it is like seeing something strange, passing by and noticing. And when you do notice, you cry out. And you could write that cry with letters. After letters come words. And it turns out you can do it. Later on itís like a game, a game of words, a game of writing. And then it turns out that writing is no game, it is a very serious thing. It is as if to give birth to a thought, to give something a new name, something that had a wrong name before. I just find better names for things.

What is your preferred method of expression? Or is it that some thoughts are better expressed through painting, and some others should be dressed in words?
You could... I think itís sort of divided already. Some phenomena cannot be expressed in colour. I mean, itís difficult to do in colour, but itís easy to use words.

So, what youíre writing goes in the drawer?
No, there have been a few publications.

What do you think - are there many people in the region who write ďto their drawersĒ?
I think there are quite a few. This is a very prolific region, this peace and quiet, wilderness etc. There are quite a few amateurs who do something. Maybe because there are associations, there are meetings organised for amateurs.

What does it mean to you to live in the mountains? How aware are you of their existence?
This is probably not a question to me; it lacks some sort of deeper meaning. Or are you expecting me to find the meaning in it?

If you could somehow expand on it...
Living in the mountains to me means having your perception intensified. Not repeated, but intensified. Because, if it were a flat land, that would be like having just one composition. And because these are mountains, Iíve got a few compositions in one space. And many possibilities, so thereís an awful lot of factors. Because I donít see just one, flat, single mountain, where nothing happens. The Sudety are such mountains which intermingle with one another. It is hills interacting with one another through their colours. Here you could practically paint one motif every day, and you would get a different picture each time, I mean colour-wise. This is an awful lot for a painter. Although I have gone rather far away from such simple concepts, still it is a lot. You can always come back to them, complicating your task a bit each time.
Section 16
Is there anything you would like to add, something I havenít asked about, something that didnít come to my mind?
[laughs] You asked about so many things, as if everything to start with.

Oh, Iím sure that is not everything!
Yeah, but itís a lot as a start. I was once interviewed here for Slowo Polskie (a regional daily). And the interviewer sat here for about 2 hours, and he asked a lot too, but he wasnít that well prepared. Your questions were better, much better. I mean, they were meaningful, they were like giving me tasks rather than expecting me to tell you a story. You are the first person Ė out of the ones who have visited us Ė who are looking for some answers: why and what for I am here, so itís quite a lot. And I said a lot. Naturally, you could try and get deeper and deeper...

So all thatís left to me is thank you for the conversation.