The shift in my practice happened when I was inevitably confronted by the post-Brexit political mood. Almost overnight, my status in the UK changed from a long-term resident and a self-identified European to a foreigner or even an undesirable and therefore I made the decision to look closer at my personal history and explore in depth the photographic archives of my own family. Perhaps influenced by Jean-Francois Lyotard’s proclamation of the fall of grand narrative or metanarratives striving to provide universal explanations, I grew intrigued by the individual stories..
Amongst many of the family stories, was that, never actually spelled out properly, of my grandfather surviving the Nazi POW camp and then the forced labour in the Third Reich. Apparently, he made a promise to himself that if he ever makes it alive, he will eat a slice of bread with salo (a form of cured fatty bacon) for the rest of his life – a promise that he kept rigorously. The years spent as a forced labourer were attributed to his refusal of signing a Volksliste, an act of declaring one’s loyalty to the German “race”. Very little I knew, and discovered only after a painstaking online research, I found out that my grandfather was listed in the Nazi prisoners register as an ethnic German apprehended with his Polish infantry unit after a 1939 battle of the Bzura. In the context of Brexit, it seemed a very significant finding, because it provoked questions about nationalism, cultural and national identity and subjective historical narratives. As in the case of many uprooted immigrants, a handful of old photos and few keepsakes were all that connected me with my family’s past and shaped my identity.