documenting everyday life of Podlasie
erzy Rajecki – 52 years old, a resident of Białystok, born in Hajnówka. I became interested in photography going with my colleagues to so-called Borderlands – to Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia. In 2009, I started photographing Podlasie and I have been still doing, wishing to record what passes away and what is permanently inscribed in the Podlasie cultural and sight landscape. This is my beloved land where I was born, where I grew up in diversity, multiculturalism, mutual tolerance and natural acceptance for different religions, languages and cultures. Peace and quiet and even some metaphysical melancholy are inscribed in the landscape of Podlasie and this is a great advantage nowadays. Everyone who comes here says that the time seems to slow down. I like to come back to the Podlasie rivers: Narew, Biebrza and Bug. They are beautiful at any time of the year, wild, unregulated, changing their beds, flooding over large spaces. I also like to come back and photograph villages near Hajnówka, which I know from childhood, to familiar places and people there. I think this is the unique atmosphere of Podlasie, which has been preserved here – beautiful, wooden architecture, old, and often cobblestone or gravel roads. Small population is also an asset, because you can see the landscapes not contaminated by civilization reaching the horizon there. In the Biebrza National Park and its buffer zone of over 20, 30 km, there are no buildings, there are simply no people, there is nothing but uncontaminated wildlife inhabited by elks, wolves, deer and other wild animals and this is also a paradise for birds.
great material, giving a warm atmosphere of homes
BUG RIVER KINGS
6th Land Art Festival / 2016
Photographs: Jerzy Rajecki
About the architecture – author in his own words:
For centuries, wood has been used here as a generally available building material, because we have here old forests and seemingly inexhaustible wood resources. This is a great material, giving a unique, warm atmosphere of homes. They were not very large, according to the resources of their inhabitants, but functional and what is important, they have perfectly fit into the local landscape. With time, for the ornamentation and distinction from neighbors, these houses were inventively decorated. It began on a larger scale after the First World War. There were already tools and patterns available, not rarely brought from quite a distance as a result of local people’s exodus during the First World War. What was seen in the east in the architecture of the eastern provinces of Russia, after returning home, the population tried to reproduce at home. Hence, for over 100 years we can admire the wonderful, decorated with different patterns shutters, wind braces, corners of houses. There are entire villages between Hajnówka and Bielsko, but also in other areas of Podlasie where this unique architecture has been admired by tourists and visitors. Although Podlasie is depopulating and getting old, where it is possible, these houses are cared for and renovated. Unfortunately, many of them fall into irreversible ruin.
People of Podlasie
they do not pretend anything, they are real..
About the people:
We would like to ask you about for the things that make Podlasie unique for us, that is … its inhabitants. It seems that the photographs of Podlasie inhabitants presented on your Podlaskie Klimaty profile as well as those shared in other places are the things to which the audience is the most responsive. Is it a sentiment to what seems to have gone away or maybe some truth contained in their faces? or maybe something else?
When I photograph the inhabitants of Podlasie, they do not pretend anything, they are real, photographed in their everyday surroundings, and they talk to me like to their “pal” who knows their everyday life, culture, customs, language, who can understand them. In such usual circumstances my photographs are created – in the fields, in houses, in courtyards, streets, roads. The Podlasie province is probably the one where the changes are the smallest and least visible – however, it is changing, slowly but inevitably. It seems to me that people looking at my photographs see their recent past, which they treat with great sentiment, as they see themselves in the countryside with their grandparents and their parents. Most of us have had contact with the province and the village and consider the time spent there as very valuable, quiet, family, even idyllic. The world is changing, we do not know whether for the better, but what is real, it’s the value of our modest everyday life, work of ordinary people and beautiful landscapes which I try to show in photographs.
I come from a family where there were maybe 3, 4 religions..
About the religion:
Podlasie is the place of many religions and cultures. In addition to the followers of the Orthodox Church, we also meet Tatars / Muslims, we have traces of Jewish culture, eg the Great Synagogue in Tykocin … How is it to live in the region, probably subjected to the biggest number of cultural factors in Poland? Do residents participate in joint events, willingly talk to each other, share?
We have had a religious and cultural crucible here for centuries. For a long time people of many religions, languages and cultures lived, worked, celebrated next to one another and together at the same time. There are many religiously mixed marriages and families. I come from a family where there were 2, maybe even 3, 4 religions. Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelicals, Muslims, Judaism believers had to live together. Aside from the few incidents over so many years, one can say that this peculiar ecumenism has survived. If one of the Orthodox family members gets married in the Catholic church and vice versa, everyone agrees to participate together in this ceremony. The same is true for baptisms ceremonies, funerals, and even indulgences and local feasts. For the inhabitants of Podlasie there is no problem of the religion, as they say here: “it’s enough to be a man”. The keeper of the mosque in Kruszyniany Dzhemil Gembicki married a Catholic, so as it can be seen here, it is also no problem.
unique atmosphere of Podlasie, which has been preserved
The village of Wojszki is famous for its beauty. Do you have such places of your own, that you often come back to and which you like to photograph?
I like to come back to the Podlasie rivers: Narew, Biebrza and Bug. They are beautiful at any time of the year, wild, unregulated, changing their beds, flooding over large spaces. I also like to come back and photograph villages near Hajnówka, which I know from childhood, to familiar places and people there.