Art channel


Sewing Memories: from Yugoslavia to Poland

My grandparents decided to return to Poland in 1946. In Yugoslavia, during and just after World War II, there was fighting between warring groups of ultranationalist Croatian Ustaše and Serbian royalists, or Chetniks. My grandparents feared that they would be targeted by either one group or the other. On arrival in Poland, those who fled usually tried to keep close to their own people. My grandparents settled in a small village near Bolesławiec in what was then the Wrocław Province.

Based on my grandparents’ memories, passed on to me when I was a child, I create a series of textiles in which I explore the spaces of our shared memory. In a way, this is our collaborative project: three generations embark on a search for the history of their family home and attempt to rebuild its foundations.

When my grandparents fled to Poland, they had absolutely nothing. They built themselves a house, started to work the land, and learned a language that was completely new to them. They managed to survive.

My textiles combine realism and fantasy. Through them, I explore my own identity and think about the memories passed on by previous generations. To construct my own narrative, I use symbols and colours that are characteristic of ceramics from Bolesławiec and its surrounding areas. The textiles represent the remainders of childhood stories that depict the war and the suffering of my ancestors. As a child, I was unable to grasp these memories in their entirety. Today, as a more knowledgeable adult, I am trying to piece them together, again.

On 2 January 1946, the Polish-Yugoslav resettlement agreement was signed. It stipulated the renunciation of Yugoslav citizenship and granted the application for Polish citizenship with the right to resettlement. Families who applied for resettlement and the granting of basic rights filled in a declaration, the content of which read as follows: 

I declare on my own behalf and on behalf of my wife and minor children that I am of Polish nationality and that I wish to return to the territory of the Republic of Poland. In the event that my declaration is accepted by the Polish State, I renounce my Yugoslav citizenship and request that I be granted Polish citizenship. Furthermore, in the event of my resettlement to Poland, I renounce my titles to immovable property previously held in Yugoslavia in favour of the Yugoslav State.

My great-great-grandparents, more than fifty years before my grandparents were born, who in turn told me all these stories, left for Yugoslavia in the hope of a better life. Now, I am reconstructing their and our history from the scraps of information that have been passed on to me.

Fot. Maks Januszewicz

Sara Stupiec was born in 2000. She is currently completing her MA at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. As an illustrator active in many feminist collectives, her work explores themes related to folklore and feminism. Stupiec is currently working on a family project, in which she is trying to research and understand the ripple effects of her ancestors’ migration.


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