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Feuilletons | Monika Gapińska

Pandemic, war... What else are we going to tell our grandchildren about?

The exhibition of photographs by Tomasz Lazar – "Notes from the Void", presented at the Villa Lentz, arouses a lot of emotions in every visitor. Like a boomerang, memories of the pandemic come back. Sad and dramatic, but also quite enjoyable, even fun – as it is in life. These are specific, personal "notes" from memory.
Oh, I perfectly remember a text from a friend with the message that our mutual high school friend had just been put under a respirator. I look at 37.2 on the thermometer and fear, what if THAT just got me. Empty streets of Szczecin in the first days of the lockdown, evoking scenes from apocalyptic B movies. Hours spent in front of the TV watching scary images from covid hospital wards.

I also have some pretty lovely images in my memory. An unusual gesture of kindness in the form of a pot with delicious cabbage rolls, which my friends left on my doormat when I was in quarantine with my family. New Year's greetings were made between neighbours through the windows, including those from the tenement house opposite, during New Year's Eve, when it was impossible to leave the house at night due to government restrictions. A few days of dinners with mussels in the leading role, due to the lack of other options, because customers in panic, at the time of the announcement of the pandemic in Poland, bought even the fattiest pieces of meat, leaving only seafood in the store refrigerators in a local supermarket. Finally, joy when the forests were "opened," and it was possible to legally hug the birch tree and listen to the tapping of a woodpecker. The first meeting with friends, after almost six months. Although outdoors, because it is safer this way. And the day when you could take off your home sweatpants, dress elegantly, and go to a concert hall or theatre.

These were notes from memory. Apart from them, each of us has hundreds or maybe thousands of photos on our phones, an exciting archive of the past days. Lazar's exhibition of photographs inspired me to look at my photos from the lockdown period, but not only. I asked several friends to do the same. I was curious to see what emotions left their mark in their mobile phone archives.

As it turned out, the record of an exceptional time when the world stopped was dominated by two elements: nature and cuisine. Yes! Lockdown in our photos smells like bread, which many people started baking during this period. Or other treats that dominated social media posts. The lockdown in the isolation time photos is also green, like the plants we planted on balconies and gardens. In places that became for some of us "prison yards", using here – I beg my pardon – prison vocabulary. Finally, the lockdown in our photos is about playing board games with the family, cooking together (again, those culinary ones!), and even crocheting and DIY...

It is amazing how many people posted to Facebook photos being a record of going out to... et gid of the rubbish. Really! After all, there was a period in the pandemic when throwing away the garbage bag became the only way to go for a walk. Thus, the photos from this short "trip to the garbage can" usually showed the passing pictures: a bush that had just bloomed, new graffiti on the wall, piles of toys that someone had thrown away as part of the lockdown cleanup, or a mask lying on the pavement, lost by a passer-by...

I am lucky that the pandemic has treated my family and friends quite kindly. I have not parted with anyone forever. Thus, my photographic archive, as well as "notes from memory", have rather lighter tones and colours, with a slightly darker tinge of fear and anxiety for the health of my loved ones. Nevertheless, I wonder if we will forever divide our lives into pre-pandemic and post-pandemic periods (hopefully soon!). Or maybe, before and after the Russian aggression in Ukraine? What other unpleasant surprises are there for us prepared by fate/future/world that we will tell our grandchildren about one day?
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