Repatriates to meet at the Emigration Museum


6 December, 15:00, Museum’s multimedia room

Diana, born 1975, left as a child for Baghdad from where her curiosity led her to London and Barcelona. She left for a while and stayed for 15 years. Elżbieta, born 1941, a political refugee and Solidarity activist, left in 1987 to protect her son from the SB (Security Service). These very different emigration stories are all linked by one thing – their heroines decided to return to Gdynia and become involved in the “Ask about Poland” project run by the Emigration Museum. Together with 15 other repatriates they have created an intergenerational audio story about their return to Poland. On 6 December the Museum would like to invite everyone to the premiere of the radio documentary and a conversation with the heroes of the project.

“Ask about Poland” is a project in which Tri-City repatriates documented their experiences in intergenerational duos. During three months of workshops and meetings they searched for the answers to what emigration had given them, what their reasons were for returning, what they had missed and how they see today’s Poland from the perspective of having lived abroad. Their work has resulted in a multimedia collection of interviews conducted with each other with the assistance of an oral history specialist from the Emigration Museum in Gdynia, as well as a series of documentaries with participants in the project by Magdalena Świerczyńska-Dolot from Radio Gdańsk.

These stories of departure and return reflect their heroes’ most important personal values and dreams – love and the desire to discover the world, but also the need for greater financial stability. The emigration biographies are also a mirror for Polish history, like the story of Mr Ryszard Biliński, who fled to Denmark in 1981 and for the next year and a half unsuccessfully tried to bring over his wife and daughter. In desperation, he and a few friends in the same situation went on hunger strike. The protest was publicised across the world and finally, thanks to help from Denmark, the family was reunited. Ryszard returned to Poland in 2013, to a free country and to his home.

This coming Sunday project participants will meet at 15.00 in the Museum’s multimedia room for the premiere of the documentary and the interviews they wrote. The discussion will be moderated by two of the project participants, Diana Lenart, curator of the architecture festival “Open House Gdynia”, and Elżbieta Potrykus, co-founder of Solidarity structures who decided to return to Poland after 20 years in the United States. The meeting on 6 December, combined with a photo exhibition, is open to anyone wishing to share their emigration memories or to find out more about oral history archive run by the Museum.


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