Art channel


The Invisible District

The Invisible District (2023) is a project, which explores the intersection of reality and memory by portraying the urban landscape of Warsaw through the recollections of Belarusian migrants. 

The project’s protagonists are illustrated using a typology that relies on placing various photographs in AI-generated cityscapes. A limbus appears whenever a memory is superimposed on the actual landscape, supporting mental health and identity in a new environment. It is important to understand that the process of adapting not only encompasses certain hardships, but that, in this process, creating a new world and a new identity.

The Invisible District is an illustration project that explores the subtle intertwining of reality and memory. It explores themes of memory, adaptation, and urban landscapes through chance encounters within the urban environment. It pays particular attention to Warsaw and its relationship to the landscapes of other cities, reconstructed here from memories of the past.

To create it, I chose a typology based on testimonials of Belarusian migrants living in Warsaw. The main visual motif used in the project is a limbus, which in the work takes on a symbolic dimension to represent a point of connectivity between the realm of memory and actual physical locations.

Using digital maps and photographs of the city, I generated artifacts, in which my protagonists’ personal memories were able to intersect with one another. The generated ‘objects’ illustrate the invisible, mental possessions that the migrants brought with them—these are not physical objects but mental. They serve as additional psychological support and provide an extra sense of security.

These so-called possessions play a key role in supporting people coping with the stress of migration, which gets generated when they are forced to adapt to difficult circumstances. These invisible objects become a pillar for regulating emotions, working with identity, maintaining connections with family and culture, and when looking after their mental health. Migration is not just about moving from one geographical location to another—it is also about significant cultural, social, and personal transitions. In the context of political tensions and wars, this transition becomes even more difficult and requires considerable adjustment.

The project aims to illuminate not only the complexities of pain and suffering, but also to explore the new world, identities, and reality in which migrants find themselves. It is important to reveal the process of adaptation as a positive phenomenon that brings both challenges and new opportunities and perspectives.



I moved to Warsaw in 2021, after a long period of living ‘nowhere and everywhere’. The reason I emigrated was the lack of security I felt in my home country. During the move, I felt fearful, anxious, and angry, but also curious. The most difficult thing for me was to understand and accept that I would not be able to return home, even if only to visit. I had to accept that I would be here for a long time.

I don’t have many associations between the streets in Warsaw and those in Minsk. Sometimes the atmosphere of certain places feels familiar. Specifically, the Żona Krawca café at Kamionkowska 29. It reminds me of Minsk’s Zierno café: the atmosphere, the desserts, the lighting … Also, not far from my home in Warsaw, there is an intersection that takes me back to my childhood days in Homyel. There was a shop in my neighbourhood, and for some reason the intersection at Kinowa Street takes me right there.

When I moved, I took with me a tiara that my friend had given me for Christmas. It allowed me to remember our last meeting. It’s like a Horcrux for me, a wizarding item from Harry Potter.

How do I feel now? Well, I have mixed emotions. I miss my mother a lot, whom I haven’t seen for three years. I can’t imagine how much she misses me.

Generated from: tiara.


I moved from Minsk to Warsaw at the end of 2020. I moved because the events that happened in Belarus in 2020, the fear of lawlessness or simply fear. While moving, I was afraid of the uncertainty. But at the same time, I felt relieved, as if I had escaped from a sea full of sharks. The hardest thing about emigrating was packing my whole life into a suitcase. Explaining my decision to my parents. Accepting the realization that I wouldn’t be back for a long time. Although at the time, I still thought I would be able to return home in the near future. Now, I am able to admit with pain that this may never happen.

In Warsaw, I sometimes have some associations with Minsk. Mostly when I am walking or driving somewhere on my own. Once I was going home on a tram down Puławska Street, looking out the window; I thought I was going from Bahdanoviča Street towards Zialiony Luh. Also going home. Or recently in Ochota on Korotyńskiego Street, I really drifted to Karbyšava Street in Minsk. And somewhere near Wola, there is something similar to Minsk’s ‘Rozochka’. Just as many old people with wheelie bags. But the backyards are different, not like at home. Still, in their own way, Minsk’s atmosphere is reflected in the glass IT office buildings in Mokotów. There is something familiar about them, about the carpeted entrance and the people with key cards hanging around their necks. 🙂 Clearly, my memory is trying to put together a new world from familiar puzzles; it is searching for similarities.

I didn’t have time to think about taking something that holds a particular meaning for me. I had to urgently leave my rented flat and give away all my belongings. It was sold before we left, and by then I had already had to pack up my life in cardboard boxes. The only thing I always carry with me are the keys to my parents’ house. I rarely visited my parents, especially in recent years. But no matter how many locks have been changed, I have always had a spare set of keys. I don’t even know what the gate code is now and which key goes with which lock, but I do know that I’m very afraid of losing those keys. As if I couldn’t then go home again indefinitely. Immediately after the move, I felt calmer, there was a basic sense of security. But after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, everything fell apart. My faith in human values was shaken. Everything can be taken from you, even your home. All that’s left is to carry it with you and paste it with pixels into reality.

Generated from: the keys to my parents’ house, photo by S. Parajanov, tea bowl.


I moved to Warsaw in 2021 from Minsk in Belarus. The reason for my emigration was the fear of persecution, imprisonment, and eventually death. While moving, I also felt fear, anxiety, and confusion. The hardest thing was leaving home, where I had everything, and putting my life back together in a foreign country. The fear of not succeeding. Pity that moving was a forced decision and there is no certainty at all when and if I will be able to return, or at least visit my parents.

I like Warsaw. It seems very diverse, free. And there is a lot of beautiful architecture, both modern and old. Some places remind me of Minsk, others of any metropolis.

I brought with me a few small objects that I associate with home. One of my favourite artefacts is my grandmother’s scarf. My grandmother passed away a few years ago, and I took this scarf to Minsk. And when I moved to Warsaw, I accidentally gave it to my mother with my other things. But my friend brought it back to me. It was like magic that it smelled of both my mum’s house and my grandma’s house. Until now, I sometimes like to dip my face in it and inhale the scent of love and care. Now I feel calmer, I have already acclimatized. I feel nostalgia less and less. But I still feel pain when I see pictures of my hometown and realize that it will be a long time before I can walk these streets again, and these streets are not even the same any more 🙁

Generated from: clay toy, small red and white flag, grandmother’s scarf.


My name is Palina. I moved from Belarus to Warsaw in August 2021 for political reasons. It was hard when the plane took-off, and I spent my first month in Kyiv. But when I moved to Warsaw, everything fell into place. The hardest thing about moving was that when you’re just starting to build relationships with people, get settled in your flat, get your life together, suddenly you find yourself having to start all over again.

A random association with Minsk in Warsaw for me is Czerniakowska Street. Especially in the area around buildings numbered 81–88. Every time I go there, I feel like I’m walking on Pushkin Avenue. It’s absolutely Pushkin Avenue, and there’s still a block of flats nearby where I lived for the last three months at Adaeuskaha Street.

As for the things I brought with me, it’s mostly my music equipment, lighting filters, lamps. I always try to arrange myself to be cosy wherever I am.

Generated from: dinosaur painting by Sergey Savich, multicoloured lighting filters, wall calendar.


I moved to Warsaw in early 2020 from Minsk in Belarus. The main reason for emigrating was fear of losing my freedom, and maybe even my life. I was afraid of the lack of acceptance, for my lifestyle that is shaped by the country I came from. During the move, I felt burdened, helpless, and a sense of longing. But also at the same time happiness, lightness, and freedom. The hardest thing about emigrating is parting with family, finding new social ties in Poland, and meeting basic needs.

Immediately, I found myself in the centre of Warsaw in a rented flat, nothing at first brought Minsk to mind. Later, when I visited districts such as Żoliborz, Mokotów, or Saska Kępa, I compared some houses and streets with cities I know from Belarus. At first, I saw these similarities more often, but now I no longer notice them. I took with me a gift from my sister: a Christmas tree decorated with baubles, a wooden, handmade one, as well as handkerchiefs given to me by my mother (I still cry into them, now the hardest), an album with photos of my friends, and a toy dragon.

Now, living in Warsaw, I feel like a fish in water, almost like at home. I am not afraid of anything; everything is comprehensible to me. There are no problems like at the beginning, and I know I can handle everything. There is no overwhelming fear in me any more, no nerves if I need to get something done. But at the moment, I’m feeling bad in general for another reason, so again, it’s not so rosy. But if I have somewhere to hide, I feel fulfilled.

Generated from: Christmas tree figurine given by my sister, heart-shaped toy from my mum and dad, some small waffle towels from my mum.


I moved to Warsaw from Belarus in 2020. There are several reasons for emigrating. The most important are the political ones: the desire to live instead of suffering, the refusal to be oppressed, and to think only about how to survive. The active phase of the revolution has passed. There was stagnation, only detentions and repression continued (December 2020). Another significant reason for emigrating was the desire for self-realization: this began when I conceived and started to develop a tea project that had a cultural-educational component. Thirdly, the desire to live in a different society: in terms of worldviews, rules of coexistence, etc. During the move I felt curiosity, excitement, anger, and sadness about the reason for leaving and this sudden break in my life.

The hardest thing is the feeling that I had to leave because of external factors, because of the violence. Breaking social ties is painful. The longing for my grandmother, who is now far away.

I don’t remember any particular association with the streets in Warsaw. I have been here for three years, there have been many, I’m sure. Anyway, I associate my current place of residence (near Konstytucji Square) with my former place of residence in Minsk (Lenin Street). I also see similarities in the various industrial buildings.

I brought with me everything or almost everything that had emotional or other value for me. Gifts, works of art, small things that have meaning to me. At the moment, I feel content, joyful, and optimistic. But not without sadness and anger.

Generated from: toys, photo, newspaper, vinyl record.


My name is Andriey. After 2020, I left Belarus for Russia. After the outbreak of war in Ukraine—from Russia to Poland: first to Gdańsk, then to Kraków. At the beginning of 2023, I was already in Warsaw. I emigrated for ethical reasons. At first, I tried to find a compromise by leaving Belarus for Russia. But from the beginning of the war, I could no longer stay there! I think I was afraid of starting over, so I didn’t dare to immigrate to Poland straight away in 2020, but circumstances forced me to take that step. I can’t attribute the past tense to the emotions associated with the move—that ‘it was’. And I think I am now at the point where I forbid myself to miss and to analyse. Although unconsciously, these feelings erupt anyway. The most difficult and dangerous feeling right now is the feeling of having my future taken away from me. A future planned for many years. Yes, planned with possible obstacles and difficulties in mind, but ones I was prepared for or knew how to solve. Now I feel that I need to establish myself in a new place. To reignite my ambitions, to overcome walls and barriers that I cannot now anticipate or prepare for. The hardest thing about the move for me, like for many, was leaving my parents, becoming just a voice on the phone for them. Becoming that voice for friends who have immigrated to different countries. Becoming just a memory for friends, colleagues, people I admired or secretly hated. Becoming a part of the past for others. It takes a very long time to acquire all that one has left behind. I still have the feeling that life in Belarus is moving slowly and hard, but it is moving. And here you must mentally prepare yourself every time you leave the house or go to buy medicine at the pharmacy!

I have always loved bridges and their symbolism. It’s like an artificial space-time tunnel, but not in space-time, but from shore to shore. In Minsk, I lived on Plošča Pieramohi. To get to Kastryčnickaja, I had to cross two or three bridges. To get to Niamiha, you had to cross another bridge. On my way to work, I used to cross the bridge on Kalvaryskaya street. Now I often catch myself thinking of Minsk when driving over bridges in Warsaw. There is an inconspicuous bridge-pass over the Gocławski Canal near my home, which makes me think of the bridges in the Gorky Park. And the Poniatowski Bridge separates my home life from city life, museum life, entertainment life.

There is only one item that I used to transport from flat to flat and then from country to country—it is an LED stage head, which is used as lighting equipment at concerts and festivals. It makes me feel at home. I used to illuminate my communist-style flat with blue light, which gave it a mystical feel; now I illuminate the white and blank walls of my Warsaw flat. I’ve noticed that it helps me feel that I’m at home here.

Generated from: a LED stage head.

curator: Sasha Velichko
retoucher: Vika Adamova
translator: Bozena Siamionava (tak)
editor: Mariya Biarozka

Special thanks to Marzena Michalek-Dąbrowska.

The project was implemented as part of the artistic scholarship of the capital city of Warsaw.

Hleb Burnashev was born in 1992 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. He and his family migrated to Slonim, Belarus as a result of the civil war in Tajikistan. In 2020, he moved to Warsaw for political reasons. In 2021, Burnashev completed an internship at Sputnik Photos and participated in the Sputnik Photos Mentorship Programme led by Adam Panchuk. In 2022, he received the artistic scholarship of the capital city of Warsaw. Website:


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