Michal Iwanowski CLEAR OF PEOPLE

Post War Stories

Post War Stories

Clear Of People

"In 1945, my grandfather and his brother escaped from a prisoner-or-war camp in Kaluga, Russia, and crossed over 2,200 km on a quest to return home. As fugitives - the walked only at night, and avoided contact with people at all cost. They slept in turns, deep in the forest, watching over each other, and dressing each other's wounds. Surviving on berries, mushroom or an occasionally stolen cabbage, they endured extreme hardship and weather adversity.  

Yet throughout the journey, their determination and their brotherly bond kept them alive and kept them going.

Three months later, in November 1945, they were eventually reunited with their family in Wroclaw, Poland.

In the summer of 2013, I retraced their epic journey and documented it from the perspective of a fugitive - staying Clear Of People. I found myself standing in the exact spots they once stood, and searching for signs of their presence. And as I walked silently for days, the landscape gradually absorbed me, offering a glimpse into some kind of past, some kind of collective memory. At times I pretended we were walking side by side.  

The journey took me from Kaluga, Russia, across Belarus, Lithuania, to Wroclaw, Poland, where my grandfather, Anatol, had found home and lived to be 92. His younger brother, Wiktor, died in September 2014. It was his written diary that allowed me to retrace their journey step by step.

Michał Iwanowski is a Polish born, Cardiff based artist and a current Ffotogallery tutor. Iwanowski studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport, graduating in 2008. His work explores the relationship between landscape and memory; marking the silent passing of otherwise insignificant individuals and histories. In 2009, he won the Emerging Photographers award by Magenta Foundation, as well as being given a Honourable Mention at Px3 Prix De Photographie, Paris. Iwanowski received Arts Council of Wales and Wales Arts International grants for his projects Clear of People and Fairy Fort Project and in 2012 had a residency in Kaunas, supported by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture.