Tag Archives: Roma

This is History (after all) ~ new film premieres in London

My new film, THIS IS HISTORY (after all), made in response to three grave sites in Poland is showing in the Sites of Collective Memory exhibition at CGP gallery, London from 8th July to 10th August.
Do come!
Here’s an invitation




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invitation ~ screening at Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month

On 25th June I will be screening a selection of filmed interviews with survivors and witnesses of Roma massacres in Southern Poland that I have collected during my research. The event is part of Hackney’s Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month. There will be a panel discussion and Roma speakers from Hackney, Newham and Harringay (who will also be providing Roma food and music).
Do come! Its free, but please book.


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the choreography of trees ~ Zabno

I’m standing at the edge of the cemetery at Zabno watching a Roma memorial service. Everyone is gathered around a marble tombstone that marks a mass grave, one of the few Roma memorials in Poland. It is unknown who is buried here, or how many…47, 49, 59, 61…there is even confusion about the date…June 20th, July 8th…all that is known for sure is that it was 1943.

Zabno 2012, pinhole photograph © Roz Mortimer

                                                                      Zabno, 2012. Pinhole Photograph. © Roz Mortimer

At first it seems like a beautiful day, but a tornado has been forecast, and after the service is over, the vodka has been poured on the ground and everyone has wandered off, I am standing alone by the tomb when the wind swells up as if out of nowhere. I stay filming the birch trees thrashing about in the gale.

Their branches are like tendrils, reaching out to the next tree as the air swirls around.
A choreography of trees.
It is beautiful, but it feels as if the world is angry.

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Bielcza IV – history or memory

On July 16th 1942 in this place, German soldiers shot and killed 28 Roma, all members of the Kwiek family. They were buried in a shallow unmarked grave in this forest clearing on the edge of the village of Bielcza. Three years later, the villagers exhumed the bodies and buried them in a mass grave in the local cemetery.

I am thinking of Nora’s Lieux d’Mémoire, about what makes a place a site of memory rather than a site of history…this place is unmemorialised, but there seems to be a will to remember…firstly from the villagers, then more recently from Bartosz’s initiative the Roma Memory Caravan, and finally from Roma themselves.

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Bielcza III – driving in circles

In Adam Bartosz’s office earlier that day he had pulled out maps to show me the exact location of this place.
He said ‘it’s between the houses and the bushes, you will see an indentation in the earth’ and drew me a diagram on a post it note.
finding Bielcza

It took us 2 days to find. The forest was overgrown. We drove in circles around the village scrutinizing every indentation. Was this the place? Did it feel like the place? Could we feel anything?

On the morning of the second day he arranged for her to be waiting for us. She took me by the hand and led me into the forest. ‘This is the place’ she said. She remembered when it had happened in 1942 and she was distressed that the place had become so unkempt and overgrown.

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Bielcza I

I’m standing in a forest clearing on the edge of a remote village in Southern Poland. There is no marker here, no memorial. The clearing is overgrown and unkempt. It feels important that I am here.
A shaft of sunlight appears and lights the spot.
this is the place

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Bielcza II – sketching the uncanny

I stand for a long time looking this place. The sunlight flickers in and out. Later I began to re-work my footage to communicate something of the uncanny nature of this place.

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Varpalota II – Anna Lakatos

In 1945 there was no lake here, just a snow covered field and a freshly dug trench. Now it is a flooded gravel pit that has a strange luminous beauty.
Standing here listening to the distant traffic and the rushes moving in the wind I am reading the testimony of Anna Lakatos…

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Varpalota III – empty vitrines

There is no memorial here, no visible sign of what took place. Not at the lake, or in the town. I’m here for a few days. I scour the museum looking for a reference, any reference. Nothing.

I know the site used to be a mine, so I go to the mining museum hoping to find out when the lake was created, and the thing that I can hardly bear to ask…what happened to the bodies? But the mining museum is closed down.

I write to the Open Society Archive in Budapest, but they have no records either.

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