After a month where the posts poured out of me, I am finding it hard to get going on this Eastern Europe trip theme. I am immersed in the topic but yet somehow I can't seem to figure out what or how to post.
There are many rational reasons for that: The trip was a long time ago. I didn't write about it at the time, my photos are a jumble, I don't have many souvenirs or other prompts. We didn't speak the languages of the places we visited and rarely had a common language with those we met. Everything was a little vague even as it unfolded. And then, of course, here in the present, I am busy, tired, sick and otherwise occupied by my day-to-day life.
But, I don't think that my lack of direction is about anything rational. My hunch is that the real issue is that revisiting this trip taps into forces far greater than anything I can describe in words or photographs. On this trip, we witnessed so much: the end of the Cold War and the unraveling of Soviet domination; the strange repercussions of command economies gone awry; the tail end of more than 50 years of war and oppression, difficult years that followed centuries of conquests and struggles for independence; the palpable and recent memory of World War II; the ghost of a culture almost completely obliterated; the remains of unspeakable horror, death and destruction. It was astonishing yet almost ordinary, foreign yet so close. We were there exploring our roots, and we found traces of roots that never really belonged where they had grown, but yet can never be wholly uprooted from that ground.
Our trip began in Czechoslovakia where it wasn't so personal, where the oppression was milder, the destruction lighter. I keep thinking that writing about Bruno should be simple...and maybe it will be, but so far I haven't been able to find any ease. I am realizing that I need to take some steps back and find a new approach. I cannot simply rely on telling this story in a linear or chronological fashion, but instead I need to try to capture a little of the swirling thoughts and sensations within. It feels important to go beyond the details of our itinerary or the images in the photographs. It feels essential to pay attention to the silent spaces and the ineffable currents.
And so, I restart this re-telling with a drawing. An image drawn from my mind's eye of Oświęcim, Poland, the town whose name in German is Auschwitz (the camp was on its outskirts).
12 Kislev 5774