The landscape is dotted with birch forests, mines, and disused foundries, the remnants of one of Europe’s most prosperous industrial regions. We are in Silesia, in southern Poland, the home of the 26-year-old photographer Michalina Kuczyńska.
We met her in her Katowice apartment, filled with plants and beautiful, handmade furniture, which she shares with her boyfriend. She is hosting three Ukrainian refugees, whom she quickly found jobs and a permanent housing solution. “I don’t consider myself an activist, because I don’t do enough,” says Michalina Kuczyńska, who works with No Border, a transnational network that fights for the abolition of borders and helps migrants.
Michalina Kuczyńska is the youngest member of the Archive of Public Protests (APP), a collective of eighteen photographers created in 2019 by Rafał Milach, who has collected images of Polish protests since 2015, that is, since the conservative national party Law and Justice (PiS) came to power.
PiS heads an authoritarian government, influenced by the Church, and to which we owe, among other things, the almost total ban on abortion, the creation of “LGBT-free” zones, and attacks on the freedom of the press and on judicial independence.
The APP collective adopts a sensitive, subjective approach to photojournalism, focusing on creativity and on the visual aspects of social movements and political tensions.
“In Poland, you could go out and protest every single day, there are so many reasons to protest!” affirms the young photographer, whom we followed during the Manifa, a feminist demonstration coinciding with the Women’s Rights Day, in Katowice and in Gliwice, her hometown. “People think Poland is just Warsaw,” she says. That’s why she likes to document movements in smaller cities, and the strong sense of solidarity they help to forge.
As we finish shooting, Michalina Kuczyńska is preparing her next departure for the Belarusian border, where she has already been several times to help the refugees and document the humanitarian drama that has been unfolding there since the summer of 2021.
Caught between Belarus, which is driving them to the border, and Poland, which is denying them access into its territory, thousands of men, women, and children are stuck in appalling conditions. “Poland has declared this border a ‘No Go Zone,’ no one is allowed to enter, and helping the refugees who are freezing to death in the woods is illegal.”
This film was shot in March 2022 in Katowice and Gliwice. It is produced by Blind and Phantastica Pictures. It was directed by Charlotte Jean and Quentin Molinié, with music by Lecomte de Brégeot.