Spell-binding photos tell fascinating story of 19th century Polish emigration to South America - and of their modern-day descendants
A photography project by two cousins offers an intimate portrait of the Polish diaspora in South America, past and present.
The Polish diaspora contains 20 million people globally. While the Polish community in North America continues to have a strong visibility, people know less about the one in South America.
Many Poles emigrated to South America in the 19th Century and early 20th Century, often because of the economic, demographic and political situation in partitioned Poland.
The waves of Polish emigration to Brazil even became known as “gorączka brazylijska” (Brazilian fever).
These days, Curitiba in Brazil is among the “most Polish” cities in the world, with as many as 400,000 people with Polish roots.
In their ongoing project “Waiting for the Snow”, cousins Katarzyna and Marianne Wasowska offer an intimate portrait of the 19th century Polish emigration to Brazil and Argentina, where there is also a sizeable diaspora.
Born in 1990 in Gdańsk, Katarzyna Wasowska studied psychology, before doing an MA diploma in photography.
Her work has featured in exhibitions in Europe, including in Budapest and Berlin.
The cousins started working together on the project after Marianne, who was born in France, met some of their relatives who had migrated to Buenos Aires while she was in Argentina.
“By using our own photographs, archival documents and family albums, we wish to create multilayered visual story,” Katarzyna Wasowska writes on her website.
The photographs range from present-day images of vibrant green jungle to yellowed documents and photographs from the 19th century, which are copies of originals that descendants of Polish migrants shared with them.
They also include portraits of people they met.
Using this combination of images, they tell the little-known story of the Poles who emigrated to South America, from their identity to their relationship with their new home.
Katarzyna says: “On the one hand we work collecting tellings from the collective memory about the country of origin and the beginnings of settlements in a new homeland.
“On another hand, we focus on creolization and mix of cultures, observing how the slavonic background got sincretized with the South American context, creating a notion of identity placed between reconstruction, fiction and fantasy.”