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Ziemowit Szczerek

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Ziemowit Szczerek

Mordor Will Come and Eat Us

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Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation: Jacek Krawczyk

Korwaks was a photographer. He and his colleagues, who were very much like himself, rambled around Ukraine burdened with heavy bundles of photographic equipment that made them resemble a military convoy. They had interchangeable mount lenses as long as cannon barrels, foldable tripods with legs protruding like antennas on portable army radio sets, lens covers, filters, add-ons, screw caps, and God knows what else...

And then they would set up shop somewhere in the vicinity of a couple of shoddy shacks, in the mud right under the noses of drunks, of whom they shot ambitious portraits. They’d bend and kneel before babushkas only to catch a few lens flares reflected from their golden teeth. They’d take pictures of gutted Moskvitches, kids playing in ruined tenement houses, toothless, limbless, eyeless, earless, and tailless dogs. Rusted soda carbonators, bulging barrels of Kvass surrounded by women with strained, twisted and bulging feet. Korwaks’s and his colleagues’ mothers had feet like that – their grandmothers most certainly did. That was unimportant, however, because it was all about the so-called broader cultural context. In other words, they were doing what I was doing. Making a complete clusterfuck out of Ukraine. They just didn’t admit to it.

Later, back in Kraków, they would show those pictures to their friends and acquaintances. Some of them would get published, and they would say that back there, in Post-Sovietia, everything is so horrible and terrifying, but the poor yet wonderful people of Ukraine, the Heroes of the East, do all they can to live a decent life. Occasionally, they would exhibit their photographs in pubs, where students of cultural studies would sit on wooden benches together with enthusiasts of Eastern countries and their cultures. Korwaks and his colleagues would display the pictures on screens as big as an entire wall: let’s say, six meters by four and a half.

Korwaks and his colleagues would speak of the poor Eastern nations’ pride and honor. In the meantime, a crowd of gathered culture experts watched as the children in one of the photographs dabbled in mud alongside some pigs. Korwaks and his colleagues would say that the East is full of brave and proud nations, and then – snap! An image of a shitfaced babushka lying down on the ground with her legs sprawled in the air next to a roadside chapel. What everyone saw was not some valiant folk but the babushka with her legs sprawled in the air. Korwaks and his colleagues claimed that those are beautiful, dignified people with a wonderful history and an even more wonderful tradition, and then – snap! Here we are, presented with Vasiliy, who’s driving his tractor completely trashed, his weather-beaten face, a cigarette butt jutting out of his mouth, and some decrepit Sovkhoz state farm wooden huts flickering in the distance together with a group of half-kids-half-zombies looking as if they were taken straight out of some Nazi propaganda leaflet.

And the whole room full of culture experts would look at Vasiliy, take him in, and then, during a discussion chaired by Korwaks and his colleagues, they would all speak of Vasiliy’s dignity, his history, and tradition. Young, indie chicks would take notes, sip their expensive drinks, and suck away at Korwaks’s and his colleagues’ dicks until the whole house rocked.

Of course, I would look at Vasiliy, too. He fascinated me as much as he fascinated all of them. I’m no different, not at all. I am just like everyone else, flesh of flesh, bone of bones. And like all of you, I crave just two things: bread and circuses.

As a matter of fact, Korwaks and the other photographers were well aware that something was a bit off; torn by something you might even call an inner conflict. And I sympathized with them in their distress.

English translation: Jacek Krawczyk
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Ziemowit Szczerek

(1978-) – writer, journalist, and traveller. Although born in Radom, he has lived and worked in Krakow for years. Fascinated in Central and Eastern Europe. He took repeated trips to Ukraine, which resulted in a reportage novel Przyjdzie Mordor i nas zje, czyli tajna historia Słowian(Mordor will Come and Eat us, or A Secret History of Slavs), awarded the Passport of Polityka weekly. Polish literature owes to him the gonzo style, that is a an extremely subjective and hard-hitting manner of describing reality, frequently sunk in a haze of alcohol and drugs. A hater of Polish “backpackers” who roam the post-Soviet Europe in the search of “Soviet hard-core”. Hard to meet in Krakow, as he spends most time somewhere between Kielce, Kyiv, and Sarajevo. (ms)

 

 

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