Wacława is a reflection of the memory of the Second World War. This project shows how the different generations remember the war in different ways. One generation who’s memories are rooted in experience, while the other’s is formed through the different mediums of communication – it’s called postmemory. The piece was structured in a way that highlights the different mechanisms that these later generations use to relate to this period; that our memory is shaped by eyewitness testimony and different forms of art.
There is research by anthropological scholars that suggests reasons as to why we as a culture are remembering the war more now than we did before; why these narrations of our past have become more interesting to the most recent generation. We are in a very poignant moment in history, where the last of the “survivors” are too quickly dying out, and this is their last opportunity to pass on their first person experiences.
The point of this project is expressed through the testimony my grandmother, a 93 year old woman who describes her experiences of the war. She was 16 when the war broke out and she lived in Opatów – a small town in the south of Poland. The most dominant of the war were round-ups and hiding. Grandma told me the story and I wanted to share it with the wider audience. Limiting the story to the sound medium builds an intimate atmosphere with the audience. The piece is also composed of songs from a 1946 film, directed by Leopold Buczkowski and entitled “Forbidden Songs”. The songs are performed by a group of Germans, Poles and Israelis as part of a program formed directly out of this necessity to pass on these memories. The songs are named “Axe, Hoe”, and “Red Apple”, and these, along with the rest of the songs from the movie, are significant not only because of their general motifs, but because this was the first memory expressed through the medium of both film and music. Songs from the time of the German occupation of Poland contrast grandma’s narration, and she herself sings one song of the guerilla soldiers called “Forrest Lullaby” that she remembers from the war times.
Post-memory is building an image of the past from the residual fragments of knowledge, passed on to the children and grandchildren by those alive at the time. One of the aims of this exercise was to highlight the inability to transfer ideas and memories perfectly, whether it is due to a lack of linguistic understanding or cultural differences. It is important to understand that these constrictions make it difficult – and sometimes even impossible – to build a comprehensive shared memory.